The Day After

The day after we said goodbye to Simon was a fog. We cried almost constantly, we knew we needed to be there for each other and for Nolan so we got out of bed and did what we could. We got out of the house and went for a walk to the end of the block and back. It was all we could manage, and we were proud of ourselves for making  it that far.

There have been a lot of days after since then.

The day after we picked up Simon’s ashes. Something we never thought we would have to do, and something no one should have to do for their child. The day after, we were still in the fog and being pummeled by the waves.

The day after our first support group. We were told about the so-called grief-hangover that we should expect. It was real, and it hit hard. It was another day in the fog and while I was glad we went and glad we were beginning to learn we were not alone, I was still unable to see any light.

The day after we decided to honor our son with a bench at a beautiful Denver park. I had a task. A job to accomplish. I had to find out how to do it, what it takes, and I had to get it done. It was a job I wish I didn’t need to take on, and a job that I am so glad I did throw myself into. There was an end result. A perfect bench at a perfect park.

The day after we met with the specialist and confirmed what we already knew. We were scared about what we might hear, what we might learn. The day after, I felt a little stronger and more confident in what happened to our Simon, and at the same time, more confused and unsure of our next steps.

The day after Nolan’s surgery. Relief. A healthy, safe, happy boy. He woke up. He was fine. Our weeks (or months) of worry about the outcome were all for naught. We had our boy at home.

Now today.

The day after our memorial for Simon.

The day I was dreading.

It was a day of utter heartache. A day punctuated by a speech I never thought I’d get through, a song I never thought I’d want to hear again (but I am so grateful I did), people we hadn’t seen in weeks, months, years, even decades coming together to cry with us, laugh with us, and to remember Simon.

It was a day that my grandpa, Simon’s great-grandpa, comforted me and gave me a lifetime of advice without uttering a word.

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It was a day we’ll never forget.

I was dreading yesterday right up until yesterday happened. Then, and now (the day after) I am so glad we did it the way we did, and so glad I gave the speech I never thought I could. Everything we did was for Simon and it showed us how much support we have, and he has. And that support will be there for our family of four, always and always.

Calling Bull____

So I’ve been taking part in a writing workshop the last handful of days. We are given prompts that force us to delve into our grief in new and unique ways.

One prompt recently was about kindness. How are you kind to yourself. Seems like a great prompt, but I couldn’t get past the opening paragraphs of the work that was chosen to get our creative juices flowing.

I may not have followed the rules to a tee, but I couldn’t get past the first words I read, and here’s what I came up with.

“Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things.”

I’m calling bullshit.

Maybe it’s too fresh. Maybe I’m still so angry. Maybe I’m still to confused about a world that would let my baby die before he had a chance to cry even once.

The idea that I can’t…or couldn’t…know kindness until my little boy was taken from me reeks of the “everything happens for a reason” that makes me physically ill and red-faced angry at anyone who would say that to a grieving dad. No. Not everything happens for a reason. And no. I didn’t need to lose Simon to know kindness.

Had he been born, had I held him when he cried, had my heart melted the first time he looked into my eyes, my ability to see kindness (and my ability to display it) would have been instantly heightened. When my first son was born, I understood instantly what an amazing place the world was. I felt the kindness of people around my family’s community as we all came together knowing that “it takes a village to raise a child” and this was our village. That is a kindness that I had never learned, and it didn’t take a crushing loss to see it.

I am a kind person now. I am kind so that both my living son and my dead son will be proud of me. And I will always know that I would have changed when Simon came into the world had he lived, too. I would have become even more empathetic than I was before. I would have seen the good in people, in the world.

So did it take my son not having a chance at life for me to know kindness? That’s a really fucking arrogant idea. He dies, I see kindness.

Screw that. Kindness has always been there, but HE never gets a chance to experience it.

Simon’s Smile

A while after we lost our perfect little boy Simon, Tera had an idea. A perfectly simple, perfect idea. A way to honor our little boy and allow him to make an impact on the world.

We created “Simon’s Smile”.

We have business cards that tell a bit of his, and our, story and we give them out along with a random act of kindness, asking (but not expecting) that people will pay it forward.

It’s a way to feel Simon’s presence on a daily basis, and a way to make sure he is never forgotten. And hopefully it puts a smile on someone’s face.

I give out a card every time I run. I put it on a random car windshield along with a note wishing the driver a happy day, or a peaceful afternoon, or just that they have at least one reason to smile that day. I don’t know the result, I likely never will. All I can do is hope that the message of Simon’s Smile hits its mark.

Today I got a firsthand example of what a little act of kindness can do.

I was running, nearly to the top of the hill and struggling. As I approached the crest of the hill, I saw a mom wrestling with her little one to get her in the stroller. I’ve been there. The straps and buckles and a squirmy toddler are a tough combination at times.

As I passed her, her daughter was safely buckled in and I had conquered the hardest part of my run. She said “good job”…I said thanks and echoed her good job. I was a bit past her, but I could hear her laugh as she yelled “thanks” in my direction.

They were random acts of kindness. She applauded my effort running, and I acknowledged that her task at the moment was harder. We both smiled.

That moment hit me with a renewed vigor to continue or Simon’s Smile mission and to do what I can, what Simon, Tera, Nolan and I can, to add some kindness to the world.

It makes a difference. It really does.

Be kind to each other in Simon’s name.

(Oh, and if you get a card, let us know how Simon made you smile…put a picture of the act of kindness on Instagram with #SimonsSmile. His mom and dad love to see how he’s impacting the world.)