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Happy Birthday Jeanne Madeline ...

by Karla James
reprinted with permission

September 4, 1995

Today is my daughter Jeanne Madeline's 10th Birthday she is celebrating it in Heaven. As I drive through the Santa Cruz mountains with my husband Mark, I listen to our daughter Jessica and her best friend Morgan. Jessica is telling Morgan that today is her sisters birthday, at first they discuss how old she would be, and then the conversation leads to whose sister is older, They decide that Morgan's sister Jennifer is two months older than Jeanne Madeline. As we near the cabin they are discussing what it must be like to have Jesus throw you a birthday party. Jessica decides that many loved ones will be at this party for her sister, she then asks us if all the other children at the cemetery will be there too?

Mark and I decide to walk to the cemetery because the long walk seems to soothe us. This path is the same one we used walk when strolling Jeanne Madeline years ago. As we reach her grave we notice that the little lamb that sits on her grave has been covered with a thin layer of moss. We sit quietly for awhile, and then we wish our little girl a Happy Birthday! As we begin to leave we notice a new grave surrounded by teddy bears. I say a silent prayer for the parents, who I know are hurting right now.

I am reminded of many things on this day, bittersweet memories flood my mind of my little girl who used to sing when she heard the sound of the dryer buzzing. I remember going in to labor on labor day, and holding my first child in my arms. I think of the innocence of youth, when the worst thing that had ever happened was the death of my childhood dog Darling. The person I was then is gone, replaced by an older, quieter, and more appreciative version of myself. I miss Jeanne terribly and yet I know there has to be a bigger plan. There are days like today when I feel that everyone can see right through me, as if I were wearing Scarlet Letters spelling out INFANT DEATH SURVIVOR.

I wake up every morning and thank God for everything he has allowed me to keep, and I thank him for taking care of Jeanne Madeline until I can see her again. Many people have asked me if it would have been easier to have never had her at all. These people don't understand the joy she gave me in those short six months. I am one of those mothers who stop women in grocery stores when they yell at their children and ask them to take the time to appreciate what they have been given. Just because we have children, there is no rule book that says they have to outlive us.

I will never forget what a social worker told us within hours of Jeanne Madeline's death, "Eighty five percent of all marriages break up within one year of a child's death." I wonder if it was necessary to tell us this, considering what we had just been through. I am happy to say we survived. When Jeanne Madeline died that is exactly what we had to learn to do.

Jeanne Madeline's Mom


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