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Birthdays in Heaven

Today, in my heart, a silent birthday party is taking place.   A party that should be filled with balloons, gifts, decorations, friends, and excitement.  Yet, the celebration will only exist in the shadow of grief.  One of those what if, if only, situations that crashes into the reality that the birthday boy is gone!


Fifteen years ago today, after 9 high-risk, worry-filled months, and 36 long, excruciating hours of labor, I briefly held this precious boy in my arms.  At first glance his tiny body was perfect: long, adorable fingers and toes, wispy blond hair, soft newborn skin, and the most beautiful, round face that is etched deeply in my mind and forever on my heart.  But inside that precious, small body was a heart that wasn’t beating as it had been just hours before, beneath my own heart.


Time is an interesting thing.  Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Often, time seems to pass quickly.  Sometimes it eeks by and other times, it stands still.

When the doctor confirmed what our hearts already knew, that Jonathan Michael had unexpectedly and unexplainably passed away, time stood still in my soul.  Suspended between the maternity suite at Duke Hospital and Heaven, my mind couldn’t quite process that the child I had carried and who had been the answer to a decade of prayers…was now gone.  The minutes passed and the hours dragged by but in my heart, I didn’t know that time would ever matter again.JonathanAfter a tragedy, I had heard people say that they didn’t want to go on, that they weren’t sure if they could move forward amidst grief.  I thought I could relate and understand but I didn’t and couldn’t.  Even after 3 miscarriages and a premature delivery of Emma Grace and all the beautiful, medical mess she is, I had never felt despair like I did when Jonathan died.  Not that I ever contemplated not living, but the pain was so intense I didn’t know if my heart could physically keep on beating…it was broken in more pieces and ways than I knew was possible.

Yet, time did pass.  Minutes did become hours, and days did flow into weeks.  People came and loved on us.  Tears flowed until there were no more left.  Memories rushed in when least expected and still do.  Grief sneaks up and takes me by surprise even now.  A song, a white rose, the pattern of blue gingham material, yellow rubber duckies, everytime I walk into Duke Hospital, oh so many triggers that take me back to that moment when our precious boy found himself in the arms of Jesus instead of my arms where I thought he belonged.

Screenshot_2015-08-24-22-48-55-1And with each birthday I cry, and remember, and wish he were here.  How I wish he could blow out candles on his birthday cake, unwrap presents, celebrate with friends and know how very much he is loved.

Once someone asked me if time could be turned back and I could choose, would I have chosen to never have conceived Jonathan or have been pregnant and suffered the loss?  A thousand times over I would do every single second of that pregnancy again.  To have known of the wonder and secrecy of him before the news was shared with the world.  To have felt him moving beneath my heart and know he was growing and thriving in the most sacred place that only God could have created for him inside of my womb.  To have dreamed and enjoyed imagining for all of those months.  And to have held him in my arms for those very brief hours.  Yes, a thousand times over…YES.

God’s grace truly is amazing.  His comfort and peace are unexplainable.  His tenderness in meeting me in the deepest ravines of grief and whispering His love when I could not hear any other voices around me, sustained me.  He came deep down into the valley, blew life into me again, resuscitated my broken heart and held my hand as I slowly, oh so slowly, climbed out of the depths and back into a new normal.

Fifteen years have come and gone.  One day after another has continuously flowed.  And not one of those days has passed without my mind remembering and my heart longing for our boy!

Oh but isn’t the Lord amazing?  He had a plan to patch up my heart.  He had a way higher than my ability to imagine that would heal the gaping wound I thought would be exposed wide open forever.  God is altogether lovely and amazing.  He allowed me to carry 6 children and was gracious enough to allow 2 of those children to survive.  Infertility, miscarriage, prematurity, and loss are woven into our patchwork quilt of parenthood.  Yet so are the lives of Emma Grace and Spencer Michael…they have added beautiful designs to the quilt of our lives.  We are truly blessed.

As for our precious Jonathan…Happy Birthday in Heaven sweet boy!  For 15 years now you’ve been celebrating birthdays away from us.  For 15 years you have been loved, cherished, and remembered and I have to believe that you long for us as deeply as we long for you!  I’ve no doubt you would have loved and cared for your sister Emma Grace the way your younger brother, Spencer does in your absence.  And I’ve no doubt you are doting on the 3 sisters you have in Heaven with you.  You are missed…immensely.

Sometimes when I think of all you have missed out on here, living everyday life with us, my eyes fill with tears and my heart physically hurts.  There were so many things I wanted to show you, teach you, experience with you.  So many amazing people that we call family and friends that you would have enjoyed.  And if God had given me a choice, of course, I would have chosen to keep you here.  For my heart could never have imagined that I could survive the loss of you after knowing the love of you.  Yet, I am also grateful for what you have missed.  You’ve never had to know sickness, or loneliness, or pain, or tears.  Those are things you have been shielded from.

I hope somehow across the barrier of time as we know it on earth and time as it exists in Heaven, that you are able to sense our love for you.  You were your daddy’s first son.  A dream come true for him.  What a man of integrity he is.  You would be proud to be his son!  

You would be a sophomore in high school now, getting your driver’s license, probably playing sports, hopefully loving music and piano as I do, learning everything from carpentry to auto mechanics from your daddy who thinks every boy should know how to do and fix anything.  You would be attending camps and youth activities with boys who remind me of what we’ve missed.  There are two boys in particular that I watch and ponder how different life would be if you were still here.  They are very different but I think they would both be your friends.  They, born the same year as you, are constant reminders of each phase of life that exists without you in it.

In our hearts, you’ve reached another milestone.  Another birthday.  Another moment of time that exists in your honor and memory.  

And in this moment of time, I miss you, remember you, love you and cherish you.  You changed me forever, profoundly.  

How blessed I am to be your Momma!

With all my heart,

Renee Parris







About Renee Parris

I write to share the message of grace God has so generously splattered on the pages of my life. My heart beats strongly with love for my husband, children, and those God has placed in my path. I adore the world God has created for us to explore. My heart beats to share, through written words and pictures, my love for nature and the people I meet on this beautiful journey called life.

4 responses »

  1. Renee, I know how your heart hurts. Truly a physical pain, deep inside. Sometimes, I too go to that dark place of grief. So thankful that the Lord so lovingly pulls me out, so that I can laugh and smile again. So glad that He doesn’t let us stay in that sadness. You are such an example to me ! Your love and care for others is amazing to watch; you truly have a servant’s heart. I love you, and will be praying for you, that today will bring more smiles than tears. ❤️

  2. Love and prayers. I truly do mourn with you. We know God’s plan is so much greater than our fleshly understanding, beyond what mortal man can comprehend.


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