Darth Vader stands tall on a random corner of Duval Street, strumming his banjo with the confidence you’d expect of an inter-galactic villain. A few blocks away, Spiderman sits cross-legged on the filthy sidewalk, a classic yoga pose, with his sitar on display.
Of course. The universe is at peace. This is Key West. Stray chickens dodge traffic. Hung over stag party gangs troll the streets like zombies. It’s a random Saturday in January.
But for me there is nothing random about it. In fact, for me, it’s a day like no other. 17 years ago - I can barely believe that number as my fingers stub the keys – that many years ago on January 9th I gave birth to my baby boy Shiloh.
After a planned Caesarean, I awoke in a sick ward in a government hospital in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. Beside me, a man groaned as his elevated swollen foot oozed. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to drive away the confusion, the terror. Why wasn’t I surrounded by other happy new mothers? Where were the cries of newborns?! Where was my baby boy?!!! The possibility washed over me, a cold sweat of terror. I was alone and my baby was not with me. Could he have… not…made..it?
An hour later, with the help of a pushy Canadian friend who’d rescued him from the incompetent nurses, I had my gorgeous boy against my breast, his heart beating with mine. His tiny body rising and falling gently with each of my calmed breaths. Apparently there were no beds left in the maternity ward. Sigh. What a scare!
Fast forward 17 years. I wake knowing my universe is not at peace. I wake with a deep dull pain. It washes over me. As I rub my eyes and look up at the white ceiling, there it is. No baby boy. No big boy either to call or visit. My worst fear has long ago come true.
I could be in Key West or St Lucia, Toronto or Trinidad. This birthday is full of terror. And resignation that an open wound will remain. It does not scab over. So I must protect it. Protect the pain as I would protect my boy. If only I could.
As the years go by, it gets deeper. Nestled in somewhere behind my heart. Somewhere that allows the sunshine still to enter. That lets me smile and know joy.
And there are memories. Memories that stay in another place. They rest like warm blankets all about my soul. If I’m chilly I only need to walk through them and wrap one around me. Bliss for a broken mama.
But today on the 17th anniversary of Shiloh’s birth, I choose to celebrate. A life force like that must not be mourned. A boy with the energy of the sun, the smile of a cherub and charm unmatched, THAT boy should be remembered and not swept away in sorrowful grief.
If Shiloh were here today is a game I like to play. It makes me smile. I know that my Blue Ranger is sky diving in heaven. My naughty little boy now an angel, the brightest star above us.
Shiloh would love Key West. All the action, the people, the madness, the life pulsing through this place. The messy along with the beautiful, the rough with the smooth. He would stop me as we walked along, and stand by Spiderman on the dirty sidewalk with unabashed curiousity and wonder. He would stop and rub the back of a homeless person.
I carry him in my heart all day today, like I do every day. I let him see it all through my eyes and in turn I see it all through his. Innocent but an old soul. Wise, wide eyed, Shiloh’s spirit soars. He guides me in his awesome way.
He has shaped who I am today, and through all the sadness I would rather to have known and loved him, than to have never held him or known him in all his glory.
Happy birthday my little boy, my omnipotent angel. May the universe hold you when you are sad and help you along your other-worldly path. And know that if I could just hold you again, for one brief moment, I would give anything and everything.
Your ever grateful mama.