an honest look at celebrating birthdays after loss

February 22, 2016, Michaela Evanow, 19 Comments

Dear Village,

I don’t know how to ask this, without sounding quite desperate.

But, the truth is, I am feeling desperate.

Desperate to celebrate my daughter and have you alongside me. 

Her birthday is on March 7th. She would have been 4 years old.

Every fibre of my being is screaming out: please acknowledge it. Somehow.

As a parent, I often wonder: will other forget about her? Will the stories and photos feel awkward after a certain point? Will the memories fade beyond recognition? Is my grief tiresome to others?

Her approaching birthday reminds me of these things. I am still fumbling my way through this grief journey, and wondering how this whole birthday-without-a-birthday-girl-present thing is supposed to feel and work.

So I ask:

Would you tell me how she changed you? What she taught you? How you loved her? Tell me you remember her and think about her. Tell me you love her still and haven’t forgotten about her beautiful life.

Spend a moment in solitude on her birthday and still your heart.

Whisper her name out loud and notice the weight of the letters in your mouth. Florence.

Plant marigolds in the spring or write her name in the sand, with chalk, with flowers, and tag the photos #FlorenceMarigoldinBloom.

Continue to tell your children about her. Weave her name into your prayers of gratitude. And then tell me all about it.

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One…

Send me a note about Florence so we can read it on her birthday, and then release it into the earth.

She will not attend preschool, grade school, or graduation. She will not marry and have children. My heart has accepted these things.

But, I need every ounce of your love and energy on her birthday, because I need her and she isn’t here. I have a deep, overwhelming need to honour her, to acknowledge the goodness of her life and fight on her behalf against the disease that took her from us. But I really don’t want to do it alone.

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Two…

On her birthday, gaze at the sun, the stars, the moon, and tell me you are thinking of her. Feel the grass beneath your feet, see the sky above you, and feel the fire burn within you.

Remember her beautiful smile. Her love for Elmo and Tinkerbell. Her passionate disapproval of vacuums and sheep. Her milky baby sighs and babbles. That sweet season when she could say mama and dada. The way she would look at you, right into your very soul. Remember her precious, holy life.

Tell me you will run, paint, donate, sing, fundraise on her behalf.

Tell me you have been deeply moved and changed by her life. Tell me she has made your numbness disappear.

Even if it’s just on her birthday. Even if you do one small thing in honour of her… would you tell me all about it?

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Three…

When you talk about her, my heart blooms with love and affection and gratitude.

I take every nugget, every memory, and carry it in my heart. That nugget burrows in and blossoms.

It bears fruit.

Would you plant with me this year? Would you sow seeds with your words and actions and watch how they grow?

Then, let’s stand together and watch how the seedlings sprout into trees that cover us with their wings. Boughs full, fruit ripe, tendrils reaching on and upwards towards the warmth of heaven.

With love,

from Florence’s mama.


In honour of Florence’s birthday, consider making a donation to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice on Flo’s fundraising page or to Families of SMA Canada or The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation.

Florence and Charlie’s 10K to end SMA will be held August 7th at Second Beach in Vancouver BC. All are welcome to run, walk, roll 10K or less. Details can be found here.

19 Comments

  • Reply Jenny Miller March 9, 2016 at 12:36 PM

    Hi, I found this blog through a link on facebook. Even though we’ve never met, I literally cried my way through what I’ve read so far. I feel like God sent me here today, because I needed to quiet my heart and feel the grief in a raw way again. I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful Florence. I wish I had known her. I realized as I looked at the dates of her life that she was exactly the same age as my oldest daughter Sierra when she went to heaven to be with Jesus–2 months and 2 days before her 4th birthday. That was almost 10 years ago now, and 3 years ago, my middle daughter Courtney joined her sister in heaven. Our third daughter has the same genetic disorder as the other two, and is currently struggling health-wise. Today was a rough day, so many memories mixed with fear, missing my two little girls and realizing how very fragile life is. I needed to “connect” with someone who truly understands this kind of pain, and I thank you for sharing your heart with mine. God bless you as you continue on this journey of grief. There are days you wonder if you’ll make it….but by His grace you will!!

    • Reply Michaela Evanow March 11, 2016 at 12:54 PM

      Wow, Jenny, thank you so much for sharing. I’m glad you connected with my words here. All my love to you, dear mama. You and your girls are so precious and such warriors.

  • Reply Sandra March 4, 2016 at 2:56 PM

    Dear michaela
    I stumbled over your Instagram in search for other moms , Being a first time mom myself looking for advice , inspiration and cute baby faces . Then I found you and Florence… Is it normal to feel love and loss towards somebody I never met ? I think about Florence often now randomly and when I see butterflies and orange flowers . I love her trough my own child she made me be even more patient and loving . I love her and I know she made me a better mother .

  • Reply Vanessa March 4, 2016 at 12:05 AM

    Dear Michaela,

    Our babies were born on the same day and same year. March 7th 2012💞. They will both be 4 on Monday. I think of your Florence everyday. Her beautiful smile, her beautiful eyes, the way she seemed to look right into the souls of everyone who laid their eyes upon her. She will always be celebrated alongside with my Ryan on their birthdays. We will sing to her on the 7th and I will have Ryan blow out 4 candles in her honor. Know that she will never be forgotten. On the contrary, it is because of her that I’ve held onto to hope for better tomorrows ever since Ryan was diagnosed with epilepsy a month shy of his 3rd birthday. It has been a rough and wonderful year full of medications, hospital visits and stays, tears, joys, triumphs, failures, losses, defeat, hope, despair, anger, self pity, and LOVE to name a few. Florence helped me survive. I figured, if this little fighter can do it, then i definitely can too. I looked to her for strength and she gave it to me. Everyday. And I will forever be grateful to both Florence and you for bravely sharing your story and making us a small part of your lives through your struggle. You are always on our minds and we send you tons of hugs, kisses, light and love for better tomorrow. Always, always better tomorrows.
    Warmly with love,
    Vanessa

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  • Reply Catherine Yoell February 25, 2016 at 9:25 PM

    Michaela – this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing and for reminding me how much you want and need to hear about her. I so often don’t know what to say and don’t want to reopen your grief by saying the ‘wrong’ thing. I now understand that not hearing about her compounds your grief, and that sharing our stories helps keep her alive in all of us. I often think of Florence – I have her pictures at my desk and often just sit and look at her and remember her beautiful smile and how brave she was through the tough times. I also think about her (and you!) when ever I drive up Nanaimo near your old house, and whenever I see a marigold in a garden (hopefully our seeds will bloom!). Florence reminds me to celebrate all of life, both the highs and the lows. March 7th will now always be hers in my heart.

  • Reply vanessa February 24, 2016 at 11:29 PM

    I think often of you and precious Marigold. I planted dozens of marigolds in my garden and around my house in honour of precious Marigold this spring. My daughter gathered the seeds and we talk often about when we will plant them and how we will enjoy the beauty and memory of your precious girl. With 3 babies of my own in heaven I love your honesty in mourning, and it whispers comfort to my heart. Different losses and yet united in this beautiful dance of remembering and honouring our lost loves amid enjoying the precious lives we have the blessing to raise and watch grow. When we plant and as we water Marigold’s marigolds we will be praying and remembering with you

  • Reply Lisa February 24, 2016 at 12:15 AM

    Often, it is difficult to ask for what we need. I am so happy that you asked. I would love to honour your Florence. I will plant daffodils for her in my garden, right beside the ones I plant in honour of my own daughter every March on her birthday.
    x

  • Reply Jess February 23, 2016 at 9:10 PM

    Michaela,
    I would like to send you something via mail. Would you be comfortable sending me an address? We do not know each other, however I came about your blog by another SMA mama I know in Alberta. If you’d prefer not to use snail mail, I could do email as well. Whatever you are comfortable with.
    With love,
    Jess

  • Reply Brittany February 23, 2016 at 5:20 PM

    Do you have an address to send cards to? (Maybe it’s on your blog and I’ve missed it) Would love to send something handwritten.

  • Reply Tania February 23, 2016 at 1:28 AM

    I will remember her. Although I don’t know you I love looking at your beautiful photos and following you from Australia. I have very dear friends who live in Vancouver so feel a little connection. Florence Marigold – what an absolutely gorgeous name. I will say it on the 7th of March and think of your family. Keep smiling beautiful lady x

    • Reply Michaela Evanow February 24, 2016 at 11:28 AM

      Thank you very much for this words. I think her name is pretty beautiful, too. xo

  • Reply Helen February 22, 2016 at 9:55 PM

    I ask to tell you. I shall tell you.

    I think of Florence in random moments of the day, and though I’ve never met her, or any of you, you are all in my thoughts. I cry when I read your blog entries. They are heavy and weave braids of life and grief for me. She reminds me that I have two daughters still on earth with me. She reminds me that I need to love life, for all its simplicity and beauty, for all its unexplained miracles and wonders. She reminds me that there is gentleness in this world. She has taught me much. I only wish I had met her. I only wish I had seen her smile for myself, and not just through pictures.

    This year, and every year hereafter, I will celebrate her birthday with you, from afar, with thoughts of grand intentions. I will celebrate her existence. She has taught me much.

    • Reply Michaela Evanow February 24, 2016 at 11:27 AM

      This is beautiful, Helen. Thank you for sharing with me. xo

  • Reply Lulu February 22, 2016 at 7:51 PM

    My daughter has a very rare genetic disorder that will pose significant lifelong physical challenges for her. The memory of your beautiful Florence reminds me to cherish each day, to find the joy and celebrate that we are together. I know to show daily gratitude for spending time my little girl, because I know you’ve lost your privilege of doing the same. My heart aches because mine just turned three, and I truly can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to lose your baby girl at this age. Thank you for sharing Florence with us so intimately. She continues to make the world a better place through your words, love and memories. <3

    • Reply Michaela Evanow February 24, 2016 at 11:27 AM

      Thank you so much, Lulu. Lots of love and light to you.

  • Reply Kate Coles (Katelyn Walker) February 22, 2016 at 7:24 PM

    Our babies share a birthday, I’ve always treasured that thought. Flo will always be celebrated alongside my Tommy on March 7!

    • Reply Michaela Evanow February 24, 2016 at 11:26 AM

      Really? That is so special. Thank you….brought tears to my eyes.
      xo

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