With the birth of Theo something shifted in my heart. At one point in the early weeks of his life I stared at him. I petted his head, stroked his skin, stared at his teeny toes completely in awe of this tiny life that held such potential and a thought flashed into my mind.
This could be James. This could be his soft skin, his teeny toes. Cherish this time and this child in honor of the one you lost. Make the most of these years with not only this baby but all of your precious boys.
The loss of a child can carry such a weight of using the time we have correctly. It is a constant thought on my mind. It is also something that I am most critical of towards myself when I happen to not live each day perfectly (which happens to be every day).
This is the James effect. The constant reminder of living and creating the best life I can in his honor.
Tomorrow marks four years of me constantly feeling his gap in our family. Four years of remembering him daily. Four years urging my mind to recall all the details of a few hours; his hair, his skin, his toes. Four years of feeling the phantom weight of him in my arms late at night. Four years of regret for ever setting him down. Four years of questioning why I did not cling to him for every second that I had. Four years of staring at a single blurry photo taken by a kind nurse on an outdated camera.
Four years ago was a day that compelled my spirit to humility, pivoting my heart to choose a more intentional life. A life of purer love and empathy, of increased grace and mercy, of greater self-awareness and peace. That is what James has done for me. Four years of living onward in his honor.
A year ago I decided to change the story of his anniversary. Instead of it being a day of sorrow and grief (walled up and hiding from the world), I asked for friends to do an act of service in his name and let me know about it.
Last year I wrote,
“It can be as simple as returning a grocery cart, picking up litter as you play Pokemon Go, giving a compliment, holding a door open for someone, or writing a note to a friend. It can go as far as tipping 30% to your waiter, making a meal for a family with a new baby or someone going through a hardship, you can send flowers to someone who might be sad or lonely, donate blood, write random notes of encouragement and put them under the windshield of cars at a grocery store.
I would love it if you could share with me what you do. You can leave a comment, send me an email, write a message on facebook or take a picture and post it on instagram (#thejameseffect). Whatever you do will be perfect because no matter what it is you choose to do, you are extending that ripple in the water a little further. You are bringing joy and light on his behalf. You are helping me to see that this heartache has purpose and that the world is a better place, even just a little bit, because of James.”
It was incredibly wonderful and empowering to see my grief and sorrow transformed into action as friends and family sent me messages of their kind deeds throughout the day. I was giddy by the days end as I realized so many were taking the time to think of him and be impacted by him. My heart swelled knowing I wasn’t alone in remembering him that day.
I hope you will participate again this year, remembering that service doesn’t necessarily need to be grandiose, but that even the smallest of acts, like the smallest of lives, can make a difference.
That together the weight of the James effect may be easier and the burden lighter.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30