I knew that Link's birthday was going to hold the complete spectrum of emotions for me - and it did. Overall, though, it was such a neat, special day.
The hardest part was not being able to do all the birthday traditions that we've always done with the girls - waking them up to the happy birthday song, letting them push the button on the happy birthday dog, tracing their hand on their birthday tablecloth, birthday crown, etc. All those silly little traditions that we take for granted. I woke up early and wrote him his birthday letter - like all the girls - yet, definitely NOT like the other girls. That was a difficult, messy thing to do.
Honestly, though, for as many tears as I shed at the heartache of not having him here, I shed just as many for the love, generosity and support of all of YOU. I was absolutely floored by the giving in honor of my son. It was really good for me to have the Jubilee House project to work on during the day of his birthday. I had something to do that was meaningful. Kezia was my big helper and we took all the donations and put them into bags or baskets & organized them. Here is what my living room looked like after the drop offs:
This picture doesn't even do it justice. I thought I would put all the kitchen donations into a cute basket, but NOPE! There was just too much! I had to put it into a laundry basket and 2 overflowing bags. We had so many wonderful donations, we were able to put together 8 individual bags for the Jubilee Home here in Cedar & 12 bags for the Jubilee Home in St. George - by the NICU. It was completely awesome!! Here's what it looked like after we had put together the bags & organized things:
I mean, people just kept coming by! More & more stuff piled up! Jason's co-workers were AMAZING! He just kept bring home bags & bags of donations - food, socks, a robe, movies, books. I wish I could sit and list all the people who donated, but I'm afraid I'd miss someone. Just know that we appreciate ALL that donated. It meant so much. Each bag had this tag stapled to it:
So - his birthday festivities started at 5 - we dropped off the donations at the Jubilee House here in Cedar. They, too, were completely in shock at all the things we brought. I underestimated the time it would take to bring it there & put it all away - almost 45 minutes. They just kept saying how awesome it all was. I loved that we could be there & see the people we were helping.
We saw an amazing sunset as we left (love note!) - and then we headed to the cemetery. Two big bummers here - #1, it was already pretty dark by the time we got there. I'm going to need to push things back by an hour or so next year so we can have some light. #2 - my camera battery died :( I tried to use my cell phone, but it was just not working well in the dark. We had a bunch of balloons & we all wrote on them, sang, and sent them up to heaven. It was hard and neat. Wish I had better pictures...
And then, McDonald's. Oh, the love!! To see so many people there & the kids going up and putting money in the RM House box - it was incredible!! Here's a bunch of awesome people who showed up at our local McDonald's to support us. THANK YOU!
Up North, in SLC, my family also went to McDonald's & donated there, and then headed to the Ronald McDonald House to sing and do crafts and bring smiles to the children there.
They said that even though there weren't a lot of families that showed up for their activities, there were a couple that were neat to get to know. See that little boy in the upper right hand corner? His brother has been at Primary Children's for over 4 months. His name is Lincoln. Coincidence? Surely not. When I told Jason about it, I could barely choke out the words. What a tender mercy.
After our McDonald's trip here in Cedar, we headed home for cake, ice cream & watching his slideshow.
In between all of this, I was getting FB messages, e-mail messages, text messages, phone calls, etc. So much support and love. Cards in the mail. Another sweet SIDS mom & friend sent a picture book and angel. My sister, Trisha, sent a "link" necklace, earrings, & bracelet that I LOVE and wore on his birthday. It had a link for every member of our family. My visiting teacher brought flowers & the cake. I got e-mails letting me know donations had been made in Link's name. I got messages about friends signing up for Amazon Smile & choosing the RM House in Philly to donate to. I found out about people who went to McDonald's & contributed that way. And... to top it off, you won't even believe it but a member of my family (Yes, Liz - you ARE my surrogate aunt :) just up and got a brick for Link at the Philly RM House! Here is the e-mail she sent:
Dear Heidi & Jason,
With all the love in my heart for you and Jason, your children and your whole family, I have donated a brick to be placed in the walkway of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald in Link’s honor. It will say, “In Honor of our Link to Heaven, Linkin Hamilton”.
I know I don’t get to see you or talk to you because we are not in the same circle, but know my heart is with you and I love you all the same. IF there is ever anything that I can do please know that if it is in my power, I will absolutely to it for you and all of your family.
Umm.. can you say TEARS - and more tears? And it's even more impossible to believe, but a friend from High School sent me a check to get another brick for him here locally. Isn't it amazing? More tears and feelings of unbelief at the generosity of so many.
Today, I went to the cemetery. I knelt at his grave and I told him about ALL of it. I spoke your names & I wept as I talked of your generosity and how SO many people love him and have been touched by his life - enough to move to action and help others in the same need we were in when he was here. I even printed the e-mails and pictures and left them there for him. I told him how much I loved him. How proud I was of him. How much I missed him. I knew he heard and I felt SO sure that he was telling me that our gifts of service were the BEST gifts he could have ever received on his birthday. So THANK YOU. Those two words are so inadequate to express what's in my heart, but they will have to do. THANK YOU. From me, from Jason, from the girls and from Link. Thank you.