August 25th, 2009 was a day that changed my life forever, but before I get into the events of that day I need to share with you the months that led up to it.
Lindsay was always a planner. She liked to have a timeline of how and when she wanted things to happen. Get married after college, check. Get a masters soon after, check. One Friday night at Chili's the all powerful 'baby' question came up and she laid it down on the line for us. She would finish grad school in a few months and have baby number one shortly after...sure enough that's exactly how it happened. I was so excited, she was my first high school friend to be expecting and several of us took it upon ourselves to become 'honorary' aunts. Weeks before Ayden joined this great big world, her sister threw the perfect baby shower, right down to the baby ducks floating in the blue punch.
Time passed and we anxiously checked facebook and text messages for an update that he was making his entrance. Finally, on April 27, 2009 Ayden Brooks Jones entered the world, and I for one could not wait to meet him. A lot of people felt that way about Ayden, we knew he was going to be something special. Earlier in my Arizona post I mentioned that the Grand Canyon could be God's greatest masterpiece...I take that back. Babies surpass the Grand Canyon by far.
I remember my first time holding Ayden. I did not know what kind of parents Lindsay and Jeremy would be as far as when it came right down to letting others hold him, but thankfully they felt pretty comfortable with me (I guess). One of my favorite memories is when I had him laying across my legs, tiny head in the palm of my hands and arms stretched out across my own...With my thumbs I rubbed his fuzzy hair as he slept peacefully. Lindsay assured me that I had found his favorite sleeping position and I really think I could have sat there forever...
As the weeks past Ayden learned new thing, how to laugh, play, roll over and eat food from a jar. Lindsay would post videos, pictures, and blogs to keep us all updated. Not that we live too far away, but it wasn't a visit we got to have every weekend to check the progress for ourselves.
On August 25th my cell phone rang immediately after school. I thought it was odd to receive a phone call from my friend Kristina, who teaches at a local high school, on the first student day, but I answered and started making small talk about the events of the new school year. Her tone let me know there was something wrong. Without going into so much detail, she proceeded to tell me that little Ayden had passed away that morning. WHAT? ARE YOU SURE? I could not believe it, SIDS I knew about, but that kind of stuff doesn't happen to people you know...right? And not Ayden - he was perfect. That afternoon was spent making numerous phone calls and responding to what felt like hundreds of e-mails, some from people I barely knew. No one had the answers, no one knew what to do or say, no one understood why. The next day I woke up thinking it was all a dream...but this was reality...this was the harshest dose of reality ever experienced.
Two days later we went to Ayden's celebration of life service. August 27th...the day that we should be celebrating his 4 month birthday. I cannot put into words the experience of his service, and I am not going to try. Lindsay and Jeremy spoke at his service and wanted two things, for Ayden never to be forgotten, and for his life to make a difference.
Before August 25th I had always been a fan of music, but never really appreciated it. Sure I would hear the lyrics of a song and think, oh that reminds me of such and such. After Ayden's death there were several songs that became his, I consider them his anyway. They include: There Will be a Day, East to West, Held, Hold my Heart, and Praise you in this Storm. Sometimes these songs make me angry, sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they make me smile. How often do we stand in church and sing the words of a song, expressionless, going through the motions, and not really taking into consideration what they mean? I am certainly guilty more times than not. I am thankful for the music that makes me think of Ayden. The emotions I feel when hearing them are a gift from God - a gift of happy memories, a gift of remembrance, a gift of hope for an eternal future, a gift of never forgetting a baby that taught me more in four months than I could ever learn from a text book or professor.
Today I am thankful for Lindsay and Jeremy. They are wise beyond their years and quite possibly the two strongest Christians that I know. I am thankful that God put them in my path and kept them there. I am blessed to call them friends. I am thankful for Ayden who continues to teach me us how to love unconditionally every day, and to take nothing for granted. Thank you Lord for the days that are harder than others, the opportunity to carry a small fraction of the pain for two of my friends is one I am thankful for. I am thankful for Collen who will be here soon and all of the joy that he will give to the people that already love him dearly.