Birthday (noun): The anniversary of the day on which a person was born, typically treated as an occasion for celebration
It was Summer’s first birthday on Tuesday; it was the first, First Day of Summer.
One whole desperate year without our daughter. James and I have spent one year grieving, but on her first ‘Summerversary’, we wanted to remember the fact that she lived. Not just in my womb or in our hearts, but in our arms for over one hour, defying all the odds and all the medics. She LIVED, all of our babies did, and that’s a FACT worth celebrating.
So we invited you all to join us: family, friends, strangers! All welcome. We wanted you to mark the day as ‘The First Day of Summer’, doing things which made you think of summertime and to photograph your activities and to share them with us – to bring some joy to the 9th March, in Summer’s memory. We wanted people to be happy that she lived, not just sad that she died. We wanted this for ourselves, also.
James and I were completely blown away. We had hoped for a positive response, but we weren’t quite prepared for how many people would take the day to heart. I guesstimate that we had around 80 different households remember and celebrate Summer on Tuesday. And, incredibly, it was an international affair; we were sent photos from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, USA, Australia, Dubai and (my personal favourite) Tobago!
I thought people would start sending their photos from midday, but they poured in from the moment we woke up, right through to when we went to bed. The creativity was off the scale, making me smile, all day long, providing a genuine distraction from the grief inevitably surrounding the day.
In an otherwise wet and grey week, Summer turned on the sunshine, enabling us all to feel that it really was the first day of summertime. People themed their meals and drinks, planted seeds, photographed flowers, listened to summer playlists, ate ice lollies and frozen yoghurt. Friends and family stepped outdoors for summer strolls, went on bike rides, climbed hills, bought summery mementos for their homes, wore flip-flops and sunglasses. Others, really touchingly, held picnics and tea parties (some Clapham mice even benefited from a surprise invitation to take a summer vacation!).
It was so lovely to see Summer’s little friends joining in: I liked that my nieces were able to have cheeky ice-cream treats in her name, children of friends collected flowers, pretended to be at the beach, held indoor picnics and planted flowers. Oh and the cakes! Summer had THREE birthday cakes made for her; in England, Scotland and Wales! What a lucky little girl.
The Mumoirs website serves as a store of memory, and though I would like to share the photos here, it would be difficult to include them all (you can however see them here via Instagram). Alongside all the amazing photos, we were sent some incredibly thoughtful messages and gifts (lots of them, edible!), gorgeous flowers, as well as some lovely keepsakes, poems and letters for Summer. One special friend even made an amazing video, which she kindly agreed you could watch here. It warms my heart. It all did. So thank you, really, thank you, to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU for getting involved and thinking of Summer, on her birthday.
At the end of the day, James and I reflected that more people probably remembered Summer on her first birthday, than would have done, had she had lived. It’s a bizarre yet strangely comforting thought and we are so grateful for everyone who carried us through the day. We felt wrapped in the words of a song which we’ve always loved:
When you’re down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
James and I spent our First Day of Summer at Kew Gardens, outside in the sunshine. We stopped off at Starbucks to get one of my fave million calorie drinks (chocolate frappuccinos – eek!) and were pleasantly surprised when the barista included little smiley faces for the name we’d given him.
During the day, I said to James that he should look out for signs from Summer. He smiled, but he didn’t quite believe. I had expected to see some flowers named “summer-something-or-other” but instead, she made her presence known in an entirely unexpected way, on her first birthday.
Perhaps ten minutes after reminding James that I didn’t believe in coincidences and nudging him to keep an eye out, he spotted a little robin and pointed it out to me. It had landed on a remembrance bench:
“See, James! What did I tell you? Remember that saying? Robins appear when loved ones are near! Hello Summer!”
Though I’m sure he didn’t read too much into it, we both took out our phones, to photograph the robin. As we were doing so, a lady walked past, on the phone. She said just one sentence, sadly, but very clearly:
“Yeah, first birthdays are always the hardest”.
And then she walked on.
I burst into tears and said to James, that was a sign from Summer! Despite him being the ostensibly ‘religious one’, James thinks it just a ‘happy coincidence’.
And how am I feeling now? In all honesty, I’ve been distracted since Tuesday. I’ve been busy and rushed, working hard and volunteering. I’ve not had much time to think about how I feel, but I guess that the main thing I feel is RELIEVED.
For me, I think there are two things I’ve wanted for Summer: for people to remember her and for the world to be a better place, for her having been here.
I feel relieved that my year grieving her, has not been in vain. People remember Summer, they know her name, they donate blood and to charity and they do joyful things in her memory.
This whole year has been about trying to find the slithers of joy. It has been one of my main coping mechanisms, so I love that others have been able to do the same, to find happiness in the simple promise of summer. I could have wished for no more.
Next year, perhaps it will rain on the First Day of Summer, as she enters her ‘terrible twos’, but this year, she gave us the happy, sunny, joyful spirit in which she was named. We are grateful for that and we will always be grateful, for Summer.
N.B. I’ve genuinely just realised that this – the blog about Summer’s birthday – is the 129th blog: if you add the first two digits together, you get 3 and the remaining number is a 9. The 3rd month of the year is March and Summer was born on the 9th. I like that ‘happy coincidence’.
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