Happy Second Birthday, Zachary

It has been almost a month since the second birthday (death day) of my son Zachary. I wanted to write about his birthday on the day, but found no time for it amongst the special family time we had planned. I meant to reflect on my blog about it the next day and the day following, but couldn’t find the words. Then a week passed and still, I could not bring myself to write. Why? I wondered. Why am I finding it so difficult to express where I am at or bring myself to share this very special day?

Zachary’s birthday was full of many sweet times. We woke up in the morning as a family of four remembering our fifth. We drove to the Muttart Conservatory; a group of four glass pyramids in the heart of the city, greenhouses that glowed in the pale light of morning.

Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute

We walked through each pyramid, one a temperate climate with flowers and trees, another tropical, the third the dessert and the fourth a display for Canadian Thanksgiving. My three-year-old daughter ran ahead, squealing with joy and I wore my newborn in the baby backpack. My husband pushed our stroller overflowing with snacks and our winter coats, unneeded in these capsules of seemingly different worlds, all connected below ground.

Muttart Conservatory, photo copyright Alexis Marie Chute

It was the kind of morning I believe Zachary would have wanted for us. Family time. Laughter. Exploration. Reflection.

We treated ourselves to a seafood lunch at a restaurant we have not been to in far too long. The biscuits were fresh and moist. The children behaved well and we sat cozily in our little booth. After lunch we came home and rummaged through Zachary’s box to find all the scrapbooks I made during my pregnancy with him and of the photos and small mementos we captured at his birth. My daughter and I lit his candle I had wrapped with royal blue ribbon a year ago.

As we looked through the scrapbooks, my daughter sat on my lap and asked questions, talking openly and with compassion for her brother. “I miss Zachary,” she said.

“I miss him too,” I replied and my husband agreed, holding our newborn close to his heart. Tears welled in my eyes from a wound that I can bandage but will never truly heal, or at least not without a prominent scar (the kind of scar that makes people stop and ask, ‘What have you endured?’ and my answer: hell.)

My tears tipped in fullness and spilled down my cheeks. “Don’t cry, mommy,” my daughter told me, wiping away my tears as I do for her when she cries. “Don’t cry; it makes Zachary cry. Be happy, mommy. Remember Zachary.” Her new word is ‘remember.’ Ever since the Walk to Remember we have been doing a lot of it and Zachary’s birthday above all else is a day to remember.

My daughter and Zachary’s candle.
Photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute

We baked a chocolate cake and covered it in white icing. My daughter poured a whole container of rainbow sprinkles over the top and we cut large slices after dinner and ate and talked and laughed.

Once my girl was happily tucked into her bed, my husband and I curled up together and slowly flipped through the photo album of every picture we have and ever will have of our second born, our son, our lost boy who we miss and weep for. I had a haunting deja vu as we did this for it was the exact same act we did before bed one year before as we remembered Zachary on what would have been his first birthday.

Flower at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton.
Photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute

This brings me to why it has been so difficult for me to write about that day a month ago. My deja vu at that time was not only of the photo album and crying with my husband – it also included my anger. Yes, I did say anger. I was angry a year ago and I am still angry after another year has passed. The thoughts that ran through my mind included:

It is so unfair.

How could this happen to us?

I want my boy!

I am helpless to change this situation.

These emotions bubbled up within me and startled me greatly. I have done so much laboring through my grief over the last year, confronting it head on with the hopes of preparing myself for my next child’s birth, not wanting to linger in a place of depression and loss.

I have made huge strides. In rediscovering my art and passions and using those to address and process my loss, have found so much healing. I can honestly say I feel like I have crossed some invisible threshold into a new stage of my life. Yes a new normal of sorts, but a good place, a happy time.

The anger that erupted in me on Zachary’s second birthday shocked me. I wondered if it would ever leave me. Or will I always rage at the injustice of my loss?

Slowly, I am coming to accept this anger as the fire of a mother’s love for her child. Simple. It is a part of me. I will always wish I could have done something to save my son, it will always remain a pain in my very soul; one I will rally against for the rest of my life. Yet, I understand now that these feelings can coexist with my new life.

Even though Zachary’s life was over before it even had a chance to blossom in its beginning, this good place I find myself within, this sweet time of the soul, could not have existed without my pain. I cannot change the past and thus I carry my son within my heart and learn to live and love and allow happiness to flood in the crevices of my wound.

Happy birthday, Zachary. I love you. I miss you. You are always with me. I love you till the end.

Canadian Thanksgiving display at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, 2012.
Photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute


  1. Julie R
    Nov 12, 2012

    A poignant and beautiful tribute, Alexis. What beautiful photos, and what a special time with your family as you remembered.

  2. Charlotte
    Nov 13, 2012

    I have followed all of your blogs over the past year and have seen through your writings, the change and an evolution of your feelings for Zachery and of his death. While your love and passion for him will always exist, they have deepened and matured in a way that would have made Zachery very happy.
    Thank you for sharing.


    • Alexis Marie
      Nov 13, 2012

      Thank you for commenting, Charlotte!

      Your observation is something I had not even realized in myself but can appreciate as true upon reflection.

      Thank you for following all my blogs and for your kind, encouraging words.

  3. Patti Walker
    Nov 14, 2012

    Alexis Marie – I am bursting with pride as I read your wonderful words. Zachery continues to be honoured by your family in such a beautiful and meaningful way. Thank you (as always) for sharing.

    • Alexis Marie
      Nov 19, 2012

      Thank you for your comment Patti! I really appreciate all your support!
      With much love,
      Alexis Marie

  4. Sara Kalke
    Dec 13, 2012

    Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Alexis Marie. I feel like I get to know a little piece of Zachary from each of your stories. I know the anger, I know the pain. Your journey and courage inspires me as I follow along in my own very unwanted journey. Big hugs!

    • Alexis Marie
      Dec 29, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Sara. It blows me away how our stories can be so different but the emotions of us who have lost children resonate so similarly. Maybe it’s because we need each other.
      Love and warm encouragement from me to you!

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