I'm just briefly going to mention the things we did to celebrate her. We went to the beach that morning, then after lunch we did what we wanted to do for her:
First we went to the Life is Good store. They have one in Nags Head. I wanted to get some of the clothes they have with butterflies in memory of Charlotte, and I also wanted to get a card from there to write down all of the things we were thankful for from her this year. More on that later. I have a love of Life is Good. Maybe it's silly to get comfort from a line of clothing and slightly overpriced merchandise, but the central message is that there are millions of beautiful and simple things in our lives worth noticing and embracing. Who doesn't need that? Yes, it comes in the form of a $40 t-shirt....but it's a $40 t-shirt that makes me happy and is comfy. Why the hell not?
As Mia was going down for her nap, Mike read her the children's book we'd gotten from the hospital: "We were going to have a baby but we had an angel instead" We hadn't read it to her before. It was nice to have it to include her, but it wasn't as fitting as I thought it would be. It's about explaining to a little kid that the baby died, and mom and dad are sad, but it's ok. This is all true, but the tone was a little off for Charlotte's birthday...the day of thanks and celebration we decided to make it. Still, I was glad to have it and to read it.
While she was napping, we went to the grocery store to buy cupcakes for her, and we started drafting out list of things we were thankful for.
After nap time, we went to the Elizabethan Gardens. It's about a 20 minute drive from our beach house. On the way, we heard Angel, by Sarah McLaughlin. That's the song Mike sang to Charlotte while I was in surgery. Mike has thousands of MP3s on his player, and he told me he hadn't heard that song in months.
It's a beautiful garden with walking paths and flowers and usually it's full of butterflies. Unfortunately, it had just rained. I worried we wouldn't find any. While we walked through, I kept looking for butterflies.
I had already picked out where I wanted to have the cake and sing happy birthday, since we have been to the gardens many times before. Poor Mike. I get these ideas in my head and I know EXACTLY what I want to do, and I usually forget to tell him about it. He expects it now...we've been together that long. There's a lovely little gazebo in the back corner. It's a little hidden, it has a beautiful view of the sound, and it's very quiet. When we got there, I pulled the cupcakes out of my bag and we lit the candle...purple, of course. I looked and looked and looked for butterflies
We sang Happy Birthday, just the three of us, then had Mia blow out the candle.
As we were getting ready to leave, we saw a butterfly flying between the raindrops. Just the one. I chased it so I could take its picture.
After the gardens, we met my family for dinner. The all acknowledged her birthday in some way, which I appreciated. None did so in any way I would have chosen, but I appreciated that they all remembered. Leslie toasted her (in private to just us) with her glass of wine from the bar.
On the way home from dinner, Angel by Sarah McLaughlin played again. We cried a little, but mostly happy tears. We knew she was near, that she knew we love her, that she wasn't gone.
After Mia went to bed, we sat down to write out the card we had gotten at the Life is Good store.
It was a hard day. I cried a lot. I know we said that we were going to celebrate her on her birthday rather than mourn her, but it still is a little hard. It's still a little raw. Still, I think we were grateful and loving more than sad, which is what we want.
Mia is starting to know who she is. That's good. It's what we want. Charlotte will always be Mia's (and Ethan's) Angel Sister, and it was nice to have celebrated this, even if it was a little more bitter than sweet just yet.