After Our Son Died, My Husband Gave Me The Most Significant Christmas Present Of My Life

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Final Christmas, I sat on the ground surrounded by wrapping paper, new toys and glad youngsters, then 7 and 9. It was like being in a bubble tub with an excessive amount of cleaning soap ― ribbons and bows flying as every new field was ripped open. It rapidly turned laborious to inform what was a present and what was trash.

The earlier yr, our 20-month-old son, Aiden, died unexpectedly throughout surgical procedure to take away a tumor from his mind. It was our second Christmas with out him, and I used to be nonetheless getting used to buying two youngsters as a substitute of three.

“I feel it’s Mother’s flip to open her stocking,” my husband, Nick, stated.

My daughter introduced it over to me, exaggerating her actions as she walked on her knees.

I pulled the very first thing out of my stocking — a plastic, spherical button, like the sort you’d hit for those who have been on a sport present. These are referred to as Straightforward Buttons.

Normally, they’re shiny crimson with white letters that spell out “Straightforward.” They turned fashionable in 2005 when Staples started selling, then promoting them. The thought was that you may clear up your downside simply by hitting this button.

The one in my stocking regarded like a knock-off ― it was simply plain white with a black base.

I regarded up at my husband from the ground with one eyebrow raised in confusion and annoyance.

“Is that this for me?” I requested.

“Press it,” he replied.

I hadn’t observed earlier than, however the youngsters have been watching me carefully, ready for me to press the button too. I pressed it and the room crammed with sound.

The Easy Button sitting on the author's desk.
The Straightforward Button sitting on the creator’s desk.

Courtesy of Emily Henderson

There have been muffled voices, and I wasn’t positive what I used to be supposed to listen to. Then I heard a high-pitched squeal that became fun. The room blurred, and after I raised my head to have a look at Nick, gravity took the tears from my eyes and pulled them down my cheeks. It was Aiden taking part in together with his siblings.

Within the recording, my daughter says “Howdy,” and my older son says “Oh no, oh no,” after which there’s another loud stomach snort from Aiden. The sound stopped as abruptly because it started, and the room was quiet.

Nick broke the silence. “The recording is 15 seconds, so if you wish to change it, you possibly can.”

I put the Straightforward Button on my desk and didn’t consider it a lot till my finest buddy Ashley requested me to observe her toddler, Will. She was having one other child and wanted somebody she trusted to look after him whereas she recovered within the hospital.

There was by no means a query as as to whether we might take Will. Nick and I are child folks, and toddlers are our specialty. We knew it could be laborious, however I assumed having a toddler in the home once more could be what we would have liked at this stage in our grief.

“I wasn’t positive if that is one thing you’d be prepared for,” Ashley stated.

“We are able to’t wait,” I advised her.

Aiden’s crib was nonetheless in our bed room. We moved it from his room after he bought sick, and now it’s been in our room longer than Aiden was alive. The crib had turn out to be a shrine overflowing with blankets and stuffed animals and trinkets from his life.

To make room for Will, I piled every part within the crib right into a nook, cautious to not break the plaster mould of Aiden’s hand or misplace the plastic bag with clippings of his hair.

Then I cleared off my desk. I stacked my books, laptop computer and favourite pens in the lounge. I put the Straightforward Button on prime.

Aiden, at 16 months, playing outside in June 2019.
Aiden, at 16 months, taking part in outdoors in June 2019.

Courtesy of Emily Henderson

Will is similar age as Aiden was when he was recognized with mind most cancers. That first night time, I listened to Will communicate half-words and watched him take half-steps, and for a second, I couldn’t inform who was who. He was doing all of the issues Aiden was doing earlier than most cancers made his smile crooked and his blond curls fall out.

My daughter was totally ready to play mother, and nearly began crying after I advised her she wouldn’t be the one to rock Will to sleep at night time. My older son was extra reserved. Greater than as soon as I heard him say “That’s identical to Aiden,” his voice trailing off ― perhaps misplaced within the reminiscence? Perhaps not wanting to recollect totally?

The following day I requested my older son: “How are you feeling about having Will being right here? Is it laborious for you?”

I’m embarrassed by the a part of me that needed him to be upset, so we may cry collectively about how unfair all of it is. As an alternative, my 10-year-old made me really feel higher about issues being unhappy and feeling pleasure on the identical time.

The following night time, Will was crawling round my pile of issues in the lounge, and he picked up the Straightforward Button.

I needed him to press it. This felt like an enormous second in our household, and I needed Aiden to be part of it.

He pressed it, however as a substitute of letting it play during, he stored urgent and urgent so what got here out have been stops and begins of Aiden laughing. Nick and I smiled at one another from throughout the room.

Aiden (center), with his brother Owen and sister Peyton, visiting Santa for the first and only time.
Aiden (middle), together with his brother Owen and sister Peyton, visiting Santa for the primary and solely time.

Courtesy of Emily Henderson

All through the week, I ready bottles and lower rooster nuggets and strawberries into tiny bites. We sang songs and browse books, and I remembered what it was prefer to sit up for nap time.

By the top of the week, we have been worn out however glad. My buddy got here to select up Will, and I witnessed him assembly his child brother for the primary time, and my coronary heart was so full.

We did it. We spent per week with a dwelling, respiratory, exhausting, cute reminder of our grief, and we survived; I’d say we even had enjoyable. However grief is a sneaky fellow.

I had gotten used to seeing bibs, bottles and hooded towels that seem like dragons. I fell into the behavior of scanning the ground for choking hazards and a crawling child boy in matching pajamas. And now they have been all gone once more, and the home was quiet.

It was a well-known feeling. After Aiden died, the older youngsters returned to high school, and Nick returned to work; it was simply me and the home. I wandered from room to room, searching for what I knew I wouldn’t discover.

Many years earlier than I used to be born, my mom’s brother died in a tragic accident when he was 4 years outdated. I keep in mind one sepia-toned image of him on my grandmother’s dresser. Nobody ever talked about him, and I bought the impression I shouldn’t ask.

I, however, had the intuition to maintain my grief entrance and middle. I positioned bits and items of Aiden in every single place so I solely needed to flip my head a bit to be reminded of him. There have been footage all around the home, a pair of socks within the trunk of my automobile, and the poster my buddy made for his funeral leaning in opposition to a wall in the lounge.

It was mid-November when Aiden died. The beginning of the vacation season additionally marks the beginning of the mourning season, a time for gathering round a desk that can all the time have one highchair empty, one fewer letter to Santa, another flip of the New 12 months with out our son.

Aiden (center) with his brother and sister on Easter, 2019.
Aiden (middle) together with his brother and sister on Easter, 2019.

Courtesy of Emily Henderson

Our household won’t ever cease grieving, however how that grief expresses itself will change. The issues that deliver me consolation will evolve.

The crib I wasn’t able to take down earlier than is now stacked in items within the rafters of our storage. I nonetheless catch my daughter taking part in with Aiden’s toys, however I do know, finally, the time will come to donate them.

Subsequent yr we’re transforming our home, and I think about I’ll have loads of alternatives to resolve what to show, what to pack away, and what to let go ― a form of Marie Kondo course of for grief. By no means rushed, by no means pressured, by no means as a result of it’s one thing I feel I ought to do.

Earlier than my household gave me that Straightforward Button, I might have referred to as it a ineffective present, nevertheless it turned out to be certainly one of my most prized possessions. It brings me consolation. It retains my grief shut, retains Aiden shut as I transfer via these phases. I exploit it after I want a smile or a cry or after I need to wallow in anger. It’s a stupendous reminder. It helps me to not neglect ― not simply Aiden, however the love all of us shared. That love hasn’t gone wherever. I can nonetheless really feel it. And by celebrating Aiden’s life and remembering the enjoyment he introduced us, we preserve that love alive.

I press that button to remind myself that what we’ve been via isn’t straightforward ― however in a great way.

Emily Henderson is a runner and author dwelling in Santa Barbara, California. Her essays have appeared in Scary Mommy, Writing Class Radio and the Santa Barbara Impartial. She is at present writing a memoir about processing the lack of her son whereas working each avenue in her metropolis. You may comply with her on Instagram at @emilykathleenwrites or go to

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