Maddux’s 13th Birthday

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I started preparing myself a few months ago that Maddux’s 13th birthday was coming up. And of course, the recurrence of his death…I always write something about what I am experiencing, about my understanding of our loss of Maddux, my grief, and the hope that came after his death. There are times when I think out loud to myself “What in the world can I say that hasn’t already been said about grief?’ And “Are their people who still really want to hear about this?” And then there is the stigma of me posting on social media, the same photographs I have of him. I know that there are people that I am a friend with that are tired of this subject. Tired of seeing the same photographs of him year after year. But what you have to remember is that these photographs are all I will ever have of my son. Babies aren’t supposed to die. In my perfect life, I should be posting a photo of Maddux with a big 13 on top of his cake. While I am watching your child grow up, I too, wish you were watching mine.

I vividly remember after Maddux died, (before NILMDTS was even a thought) laying on the couch with a bottle of wine and a box of chocolate…my three older children beside me…watching me. They were looking to me for answers that I didn’t have. I realized then, that how I responded and reacted to my grief would live with them for the rest of their lives. I hate to use the term “lesson” but this was probably going to be the biggest lesson that life would throw at them.

Empathy: To experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
(Simple enough, right?)
Sympathy: Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.
*Sympathy, unlike empathy, does not involve a shared perspective or shared emotion.

We all appreciated the sympathy we received after Maddux’s death. And truth be told, we received a lot of pity also, which made us uncomfortable. But it was the empathy that truly facilitated in my healing.

My children were going to be able to empathize with others who are or have experienced this type of loss. And now that my children are 24, 21 and 17…they have experienced more death than the typical teenager. They know about babies and have experienced first hand the deaths of friends their age. I have been able to bear witness to their kindness…not just in the area of death but also in all aspects of their life. They don’t run and hide from death. They have looked it straight in the eye, and have shared their experience with friends their age.

I, as a bereaved parent, am here to protect and fight for my son's memory. My children, our children, are a new generation. They are going to be guardians of our babies’ legacies.

Guardian: A person who guards, protects, or preserves.

I was still at a loss about what I was going to write about until just about an hour ago. When I received an unexpected gift.

My daughter’s friend Lauren came over tonight and brought me a simple arrangement of 3 three small glass bottles holding the most beautiful bouquets of flowers… and a card.

Lauren writes:
Dear Haggard Family, since this month has come around again your family hasn’t left my thoughts. 13 years later and there is still a void that will never be filled. I hold your sorrow so close to my heart because over the years the Haggard Family has become my family. You have welcomed me in. Your family has given me so much love. You have made it possible to gain a love I never knew was there. Cheryl, just as Maddux will always be a part of your life, you will always be a part of mine. I will always be here to celebrate Maddux. I will always be here to mourn. With love, Lauren Nelson

Lauren isn’t the first of my children’s friends to express sympathy over the death of Maddux, and I doubt she will be the last. But this is the generation I am talking about. This is a new generation of “Be the change” movement! They know that babies die. They know that their friends can die. They know it is ok to celebrate and mourn them at the same time. They know they can say their names out loud. They know that they can share a photograph or even a simple story of a friend whose time ended too soon. They know what these simple gestures of remembrance mean to a grieving family.

They are their guardians…

~ Cheryl Haggard, Mom to Maddux Achilles Haggard and NILMDTS Cofounder

This week for Maddux’s 13th Birthday we are asking everyone to honor him with a recurring donation in the amount of $13/month. A $13 a month donation is fewer dollars than you likely spend for one lunch out a month. Instead, give a priceless gift of Remembrance Portraits to a family to have for generations!

You can add your baby’s name to the donation as well to bring them great honor with Maddux!