BIRTHDAY BOY

It is twelve years since my cousin was born still. I think about him all the time.
  1. I was too young to attend, or remember, my grandfather's funeral.
  2. A blessing or a curse, I don't know.
  3. But I was too old to forget my cousin's funeral.
  4. It's hard to forget burying something that small.
  5. I didn't own funeral clothes. I wore my school uniform.
  6. The man who conducted the small, ill-attended ceremony touched the badge affixed my tie and commented on the fact I was a library monitor.
  7. He read aloud Do Not Stand By My Grave and Weep while we stood by my cousin's grave, and wept.
  8. The coffin was white and too small and they lifted him into the ground with ribbons – ribbons, no motors, he was light enough to be carried by ribbon. Can you imagine?
  9. I asked once whether my cousin would be dressed up like the rest of us and I was told no.
  10. I didn't ask again.
  11. I didn't want to know details.
  12. But now, sometimes, I find myself scrambling for them.
  13. Because when a baby is born still that's all you have. The funeral. Some condolences. A memory of searching the Target toy aisle for something to bury him with.
    (An elephant that read aloud Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.)
  14. (Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.)
  15. I wrote poetry for years about my cousin.
  16. It was awful poetry but it was for him and that was all that I cared about.
  17. I wanted to talk about him constantly while everyone wanted to stay quiet.
  18. I wanted to sing from the rooftops of his potential.
  19. Sometimes, I still do.
  20. Mostly when I'm visiting him and searching for him because see, when an addict is your mother, you wind up with an unmarked grave.
  21. Because she didn't sign the paperwork and now we need to figure out how to get permission to put a marker on his grave from a dead woman.
  22. So while I'm saying Happy Birthday, J, forever baby boy who might have had his mother's big brown eyes and his brother's love of animals and who was too small for this world...
  23. ...I'm also screaming: YOU WERE HERE. You left before you could breathe but you mattered. You matter even if there's no marker to say so.
  24. I never met you, baby J, but I miss you.
  25. I miss the sleepovers we would have had and I miss helping you blow out your candles and your school photos.
  26. I miss seeing you with your brothers.
  27. I miss what you could have been.
  28. What you would have been.
  29. And I miss your mother.
  30. I hope and (you know I don't pray but I'll pray for you, baby J) I pray that you're together.