How to celebrate your child’s ‘heavenly birthday’

If anyone had ever said to me that one day I would be celebrating my son’s heavenly birthday’ I would have totally disbelieved them. And yet here we are approaching Tom’s 8th ‘heavenly birthday’. That is 8 years of not being able to buy him a present; 8 years of not having a cake; 8 years of not gathering the family together to celebrate; 8 long lost years.

I have been reading an article by Cheryl Preston who has strong opinions about wishing our loved ones a ‘heavenly’ birthday and whether it is right to celebrate as quite simply, ‘there are no birthdays in heaven’. She says:

A birthday is recorded on the date that you are born on the earth. Every 365 days on that date if you are still living you are one year older. Birthdays stop however on the day that you die.

I suppose to a certain extent this is true. Tom is frozen in time at the age of 19. We aren’t celebrating anything but we are remembering the day our loved one came into our lives. If calling it a ‘heavenly birthday’ is how a family want it to be remembered then who has the right to say that is wrong.

28th February 1994, Tom reluctantly arrived into the world. And what a bruiser he was. Weighing in at 9lbs 131/2ozs and already having to wear clothes 0-3months, he completed our perfect family. He was a calm baby and slept beautifully. You could just lie him in his cot and he dropped off to sleep. He fed very well and didn’t lose an ounce in those 1st few days. In fact, I think he put on quite a bit of weight!!

Fast forward to 28th February 2021 – who knew he would no longer be here in person. He would now be 27 years old. A real adult. And I think what upsets me most, as we mark another birthday, is that we really don’t know what he would be doing.

Would he be married?
Would he have children?
What career did he choose?
Where would he live?

All these questions left unanswered. I watch his friends progressing well with their lives, some with children, married, successful careers and I can’t help feeling so cheated.

But cheated or not the 28th February will come and go. Every year since we lost Tom, we have celebrated his birthday with The Feather Ball. This was borne out of the fact that the second birthday we had to encounter, without him, would have been his 21st and I felt he would have wanted us to celebrate it. The Feather Ball was perfect and it became a regular event on our calendar. Sadly, this year, there is no Feather Ball due to the pandemic so I am not sure how I will feel as the 28th approaches. What I do know is that we did have 19 fantastic birthdays with him and I will treasure every single one.

I have been researching what other parents do to celebrate or commemorate their child’s special day. Many still have cakes, candles or visit the resting place. But whatever each family chooses to do, it is the right thing for each of them. I think, though, the most over-arching thing they value most is someone remembering their child’s birthday. We are so lucky that we are surrounded by wonderful people who always remember Tom’s birthday and that means so much to us. So if you know someone whose child has passed away, don’t be frightened to let them know you are aware of what day it is. Don’t be frightened to mention their name. I think if there is one thing that parents fear the most, it is the thought their child might be forgotten.

So as we sit down to our Sunday dinner this weekend, please raise a glass not only to celebrate Tom’s birthday but also for the loved ones you have around you.

Tom’s 19 Birthdays – see if you can spot the deliberate mistake!!