It seems hard to believe that ten years ago today we were in China awaiting Lydia's arrival at the White Swan Hotel the next day. We were so anxious and nervous about becoming parents, and about what Lydia would be like and how she would accept us. It was her first birthday and we missed it by a day, but we assumed we would have so many more to celebrate that missing that one birthday would hopefully not be that big of a deal, even though we were deeply disappointed we couldn't get her on that special day. Little did we know we would actually only have four more birthdays with her. A reminder not to take anything for granted with any loved one.
If she were alive today, Lydia would be turning 11, and because there is such a vast amount of growth and development that occurs between 5 and 11, it is fair to say I don't think we know what she would be like. Between those years, children loose teeth, get teeth, grow taller, learn so much in school, develop vocabulary and are on the verge of being a preteen. For Lydia, time stops at age 5. So even though we say it is her birthday, in reality, it is not. She will always be 5, and to imagine her any older is pure fantasy and speculation, something that can both painful and bittersweet to engage in.
For a long time I struggled with what to do on this day, this, her birthday. To celebrate or not. To ignore or remember. To be sad or try to be happy. Today, I have decided that it is good enough just to "be". Celebrating a birthday for a dead child seems somehow strange to me, not to say it can't be different for others, but as a good friend once reminded me, "let the dead bury the dead." To me this means that life is for the living, and while Lydia will always live on in my heart as the most wonderful of memories, she is not alive in the truest sense of that term. I used to think it was wrong or cruel to say the words "dead" in reference to her. Somehow the finality of those words meant that I was giving up on her, or abandoning her in some way. I now see that this is not so. It is simply an acceptance of reality. Neither wishing nor prayer can bring her back. I can no longer live my life as if she were still alive. Part of the reality is to accept that she is gone.
I have struggled long and hard with issues of faith, and I finally realized, based on a disturbing trend I see in some to try and label another person's faith as not Christian or Christian, that I am going to define my faith based on my own terms, and no one else's. Part of that means that I no longer care how anyone else views the consistency or inconsistency of the philosophy I hold, and I no longer feel bound by established definitions of what this or that faith means. What I do know is that whatever I personally hold as a faith is centered around two key ideas: love and letting go (or lack of attachment). I am going to live my life according to these two key principles.
The first is to love others. I will not always love others as I should, but I am going to try my best to do so. I will make mistakes, I will get angry and I will say things in haste, but I will try and fall back on the idea that the most important thing we can do for others is to love them as we love ourselves, faults. warts, ugliness and all. The other principle is letting go. I don't own something I love, I don't really own money, my house or any of my possessions, and I really don't own my own life. They are all on loan to me, and a gift. My grandmother used to say that if you hold a bird too tightly it will fly away and never come back, but if you love it tenderly and with care and without possession it will come back to you. Nothing in this life is permanent. No possessions are worth protecting via gunpoint and what is it that Jesus says about this, namely that whomever seeks to preserve his life will lose it and whomever loses his own life will preserve it.
No one nor anything can bring you happiness if you do not have peace and happiness within you. I also interpret this to mean, that you can either try and live safe, not taking chances, not giving your whole self to others, meanwhile storing up possessions and wealth, or you can view life as adventure, a gift of but a moment, in which you cherish every second and every one, and give of your whole self, holding nothing back out of fear or loss. I choose the latter. Life is an adventure and I choose reckless love over safety and security.As a reflection of this philosophy, I have let Lydia go. She is in my heart, but she is not a possession and she was never mine. Fly Lydia fly and someday we will meet again.