The Harm in Happy.

I cringe when I see the comment “life is good”. The pile-on of happiness is everywhere. Yet tragedy abounds, anti-depressants are rampant and we’re supposed to go along with this happiness farce?

My birthday just passed. The first one in twelve years without my son. And everyone had the audacity to say things like “happy birthday” “hope you enjoyed your day” “cheers to a great day and year ahead”. Are they insane or insensitive? Did they forget that my son died? What I wish they’d have said is “I’m sure today sucks and I’m sorry. I love you”. Apparently in the midst of their daily dramas smothered in happiness, they can’t conceive of the daily struggle I have just to stay alive.

Three years ago on my birthday, Louie was healthy (seemingly). I was traveling on the actual day but when I came back we celebrated with sushi and the most hilarious card I’ve ever received. Handmade with a printed picture of Louie and Neal.

Two years ago Louie was sick. He had already been diagnosed with a reoccurrence of his cancer and had an MRI that day. I always went in the room with him for scans. He would watch a movie and I would stand at the end and rub his feet. He laid in there at least a dozen times, for the hour & a half, with calmness unmatched. I thought it would be good news but it wasn’t. The new regimen wasn’t working. The pictures from that day show my swollen eyes and blue tinged lips (from sno-cones). My tears were hidden but persistent whenever I turned away from him.


One year ago I was in the hospital while Louie was dying. We had been there 7 days already and would endure 31 more. He could barely speak, responded minimally with nods, hand squeezes and eye contact. And people still wished me a happy birthday. This is what I wrote that day in 2016.

July 23. "I think he can't differentiate minutes and hours". Well. The shittiest of all birthdays. Literally, Louie pooped for the first time in a week. I suppose the shittier ones will be every one after this. At least this year I got a hand squeeze and snuck kisses and stares endlessly all day. Still warm, still adorable, still here. The doctor answered my question as to whether being awake is a mental torment for Louie. Given he moans a bit throughout the day, it is physical and mental torment on us to discern what's wrong. Anguish vs pain. I’ve seen him reaching for something for a few days, hanging right in front of him with his left hand. There's a word for it of course, it's called delirium. And, of course, a medication as well. Not yet though. The doctor apologized for her "hours to days" comment a week ago, she didn't mean to cause more upset. I asked since he's been so stable, should we be home? She said at this point we should stay. It's certainly slightly more comfortable for us, Louie's bed here adjusts, the nurse pops in hourly to help with moving him, changing him, medicating him. It's certainly much less personal. I got lots of notes today - some said happy birthday and some just said birthday. Neal got me a card that said "I thought Louie would like this one." Our whole life will be us surmising what we think he would like.

Yes, we are always saying “Louie would like this” or “which one do you think Louie would like?”. We continue to be tormented by Louie’s last weeks and the two years he was sick. It was clear though, through the anguish, there was some semblance of happiness in his warmth and heartbeats.

This year my husband just said "birthday". No cards. No gifts. And that was completely fine. We went to Louie's favorite restaurant for dinner. And toasted him with sourdough bread. 

Please don’t assume because you’ve moved on, or because you see the bright side, that everyone does or that there even is a bright side. These tragedies will always sit near the surface. I can’t fawn over your children. I can’t tolerate your complaints about minutiae. I can’t celebrate the pregnancies you flaunt. And I can’t have a happy birthday. Ever.