4 Jun

Today is (well, would’ve been) (well, is) the boys’ birthday. A year ago today, we met them and lost them.

I think nearly every parent of a dead child has the same epiphany about the anniversary of their child’s birth and/or death: let’s do what we can to associate the day with something positive. Let’s, I don’t know, have a party or take a trip or open up that champagne we’ve been saving. We’ll toast/sing/pray/light a candle/release a balloon/plant a garden/buy a puppy/recite a stirring passage from Whitman. It’ll be a day we’ll actually look forward to someday. We’ll flip it. We can do that, can’t we?


And we’re doing some of those things. Not really because we want to turn the day into something cool or happy and not really because we want to make ourselves feel better. I suppose I don’t really know why we’re doing it. Maybe because we have to do something.

It’s hard to know how to describe the past year. 12 months later and I’m still trying to figure out what grief is, how it works, how to do it correctly. Frankly, I felt like I was better at it in the weeks immediately following than I am now. When those certain moments come, the Red Moments I call them, when they hit like a cinder block to the chest, there’s really not much to be done. Breathing exercises, hasty trips to the stalls in the office men’s room, mini mantras… they don’t really help as much as they should. You sort of have to wait them out. I thought I’d eventually get used to the Red Moments, that they’d hurt less and less as time goes by, but it doesn’t work that way. I suppose they come a little less often, which is something, but the bite is still strong as ever.

“I miss my boys,” I say often. Usually it’s when I’m alone in the car or maybe just into my hand, under my breath at work. Or the shower. I say it a lot in the shower.

And it’s not just ‘The Boys’ I miss, as if they’re one kid with three heads. It’ll be a different son on different days. I had a lot of Oscar days in the beginning. Then, for awhile, it was Rudyard almost nonstop. Only in recent months has my focus gone most often to Desmond. I don’t know why, I’m sure there’s some sort of science to this, but I’m not privy.

And you’d think, a year in, I’d quit making mental plans with them. “I can’t wait until the boys are old enough for Shel Silverstein.” “I wonder when I should start thinking about parental control stuff for our internet.” And then: “oh, right.”

Carey and I have met a lot of grieving people and we’ve both, at this point, been exposed to a truly formidable assortment of grief strategies. For example, when I hear someone refer to our kids as “Angel Babies”, I don’t know. It’s usually fine and I know that sort of thing helps a lot of people, but I sometimes can’t stop myself from wanting to drive my car through the wall of a Pizza Hut.

“Does it help to know they’re with God?” Not as much as you’d think.

“Are you trying for more?” Not at the moment, no.

“You do know that, in the short time you were with them, you were a wonderful father, right?”

No. I guess I don’t know that.

But, a year later, I just mostly want to talk to them without feeling like a fucking lunatic. If there was one thing my old man was never short on, it was advice. And is it so ridiculous that I really want to be able to do the same thing? That’s a man’s right, isn’t it?

Well, boys, for your birthday, that’s what I think I’d like to give you. Trust me, I’d rather this were something more along the lines of Tonka Trucks or clever T-shirts, but it is what it is. I realize this has much more to do with my own neediness and very little to do with your edification, but, today only, I’m not going to sweat it.

So here it is. Words of wisdom from your old, broken dad.

A Few Things I Wish I Could’ve Said


When I was growing up, my own dad was full of advice for me and I didn’t always want to hear it. He seemed to have ideas on how I should be doing just about everything, from the sort of language I used to how I spent my Saturday afternoons.

But there was one piece of advice your granddad always gave me that’s stayed with me the most. Maybe it’s what he said most often or maybe I’m only remembering it that way. Anyhow, I’d mention something about being pushed around or ridiculed by the other kids. Or he’d overhear me repeating something vulgar or telling a particularly tasteless joke. His response was almost always the same:

“Son, rise above it.”

There were times that I hated “rise above it”, but I couldn’t deny it was a good thing for me to hear.

Rudyard, there are things you can’t really change about yourself, however much you might want it and one of those things, I’m proud to say, is that you’re a leader. I know it’s hard for you to remember, but kids look to other kids when they’re trying to decide who they are and how to act. They’re looking around for someone to imitate, someone who’s in on some sort of life secret. And you may not realize it, but other people your age, your brothers included, are looking to you.

You won’t always want to be an example, but those are the breaks, bud. I wish I could tell you that you get to coast sometimes, but that’s just not how it works. And, fair warning, there’ll be times when you’ll want to use your powers for temporary popularity. You’ll be tempted to reduce yourself for an easy laugh or a fast friend.

But remember who you are, what you’re about. Pettiness and cruelty: rise above it. The easy way out: rise above it.

Keep in mind that you have a family who loves you, who wants to see you become the best version of yourself. But mostly, remember that when you do mess up (and you will), I’m always proud of you.

Love you, Rudyard. Deep breaths, you’ll be fine.



When I first met your mother, there were two things I noticed: first, she was a very, very pretty lady. Second, I could tell right away that she was the most big-hearted individual I’d ever encountered.

It’s not so easy being the way she is, but you already know that. To a truly big-hearted, compassionate soul, the world can start to look awfully mean and cynical. Others don’t always understand why it’s so important for you to go to such ridiculous lengths to help those who can’t help themselves. They’d rather you were more like them: head down, unquestioning, self-serving, status quo.

But Des, the world doesn’t really work without people like you and your mom. It’s very difficult to be the person who stands up for others, who reminds us that it’s better to be selfless and good. It’s tempting to trade in your compassion for something quick and easy and fun. But there’s a tiny voice in the back of your brain telling you The Truth, no matter how loud the world gets. “Be kind,” it’s saying. And maybe that’s all it’ll ever say.

Don’t ever let anyone convince you that compassion and understanding are weaknesses. In fact, it takes more courage than just about anything. And it doesn’t stop when you’re a grown-up. Everyone everywhere will seem to have all sorts of reasons why compassion is silly or naive or inefficient or even intolerant. Don’t ever believe it.

You’re true blue, my big-hearted boy.

Your family loves you. Your dad, no matter what, is always proud of you.

Love you, Desmond.



Like you, I was not a very big guy growing up and I remember: it’s frustrating. You have people twice your size and half your intelligence making your life extremely difficult. And there are days when it seems like it’s never going to end. But also like you, I had something that most of the other kids didn’t. It was equal parts blessing and curse, but I decided early on to become very clever.

It’s fun being quick with a comeback. That bruise on your arm from the bully in your class will heal in a few days and, I know, it hurts. But the wisecrack you fired back at him about his crooked teeth? That’ll stay with him for years.

The fact is, Oz, you have to be careful with people. It’s often the little guy with the big brain that winds up intimidating everyone. Believe it or not, bullies bully because they’re scared. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but you’ll have to trust me on this. On the inside, bullies are smaller than everyone, so they tend to puff out their chests, ball up their fists and try their best to destroy everyone around them because they’ll do anything to keep people from discovering their secret.

You’ll be tempted to cut these fellows down to size, to expose them, to make them cry with your clever remarks and your sarcasm. And, okay, sometimes they should cry a little. But whether it’s them bullying you with their fists or you bullying them with your words, well, what’s difference?

You’re going to find, my man, that being funny is one of the best things in the world. It’s a gift and, just like Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Being able to make someone laugh means that, every so often, you get to be the right guy at the right time who makes someone feel good instead of feeling awful. Isn’t that the perfect sort of person to be?

I know your brothers are bigger than you, Oscar, so this will probably sound a little strange: but go easy on them. You’re able to say and do things that they can’t. You can think of things they’ll never consider. Use your powers for good.

Make us all laugh, guy. You’re good at it.

Your family loves you. Your dad is so, so proud of you.

Hang in there. Love you, Oz.


Anyway, if you’re reading this, thanks for indulging a brief dad and his ramblings on a particularly difficult day. Your grace and understanding is appreciated.

And Happy Birthday, my boys. Your dad misses you terribly.


38 Responses to “Birthday”

  1. Esther Hanes June 4, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    What a beautiful post. I’m so glad to see you still writing about the boys. We are with you today in spirit and thinking about you and Carey, and Rudyard, Desmond, and Oscar.

  2. pam June 4, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    It’s hard to think of the right comment to say right now. All I can say is, I’m thinking of you and your family today. All five of you.

  3. Thankful Becky June 4, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Thank you.

  4. missohkay June 4, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I’m sitting in my office crying for your boys as I did when I read your letters to them last year. You are so eloquent and I can see that you have as big a heart as your wife (who is, hands-down, one of the kindest people I’ve had the honor of being internet-friends with). Lots of love in this difficult time.

  5. Audrey June 4, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    I can’t in my right mind sit at this desk in my cublicle and read your notes to them. No, I will save that for later tonight, because my heart is too fragile. But I’ll read them, I promise.

    But thanks for writing this because I was starting to feel a little nuts. I was much more rational and honest in my grief right after my miscarriages than I am these days. And you’re right, knowing they’re with God doesn’t help me either, it just makes me furious, like He didn’t have enough already up there.

    I remember when I started following your story– something I can’t say about many of my internet bloggy tweety friends. I was in the Chick-fil-a drive-through line (sorry vegans) reading your tweets as you gave updates on Carey, pregnant with my own terrifying miracle who left us on June 5th. I also don’t remember many of the names of my internet pals and their babies but I have always remembered Rudyard and Desmond and Oscar by name, and I’m grieving them and celebrating them right along with you on this really difficult day.

  6. margaret June 4, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Rick and I have been talking about you, Carey and your boys a lot lately, and especially last night. We wish you peace. I wish it were as easy as that.
    Love to you all,

  7. Jon S. June 4, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    You’re a good dad, Jer. Really thankful for my friendship with you and Carey.

  8. Mrs. K (@MrsK_TTC) June 4, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    I don’t quite know what to say. This is so sad and so beautiful. My heart goes out to you and your wife on this difficult day.

  9. Noelle June 4, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    I’ve missed your posts. Nice to remember your boys with you for one day.

  10. Anna Kitchens-Culp June 4, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I came to your and your wife’s blog because of a link on Esther’s and Jason’s. Just last night, after not checking your blog for many months, as I fell asleep, I felt deep sorrow for/with you out of the blue. I wondered how you were doing, and I thought that I should send you a message to tell you that I, though a complete stranger, had followed your story of pregnancy, birth, loss, memorial, and grief, and that I still remembered your children. I don’t mean to say that I thought if I told you that, that it would lessen your grief. I just hope you carry in your pocket the idea that more people than you know remember, care, and pray for you five.

  11. jennandtonica June 4, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Happy birthday to the Bear boys. I wish this day were different. Your lovely family of five is in my thoughts and prayers, today more than usual.

  12. Lauren Martin June 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    This is truly beautiful, Jer. I wish, as your sister, that I had something to say that could give you some comfort today. But mostly I’m just really pissed for you and Carey. As many parents as I run across (in my profession) that have not much of anything to offer their kids, it’s really frankly just awful that two people who have so much love/wisdom to give have to be grieving on their children’s birthday instead of throwing a huge party. I’m just so sorry. Hoping you feel the prayers and love of so, so many today. You’ve got mine.

  13. Brian Brinkman June 4, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    As a Dad who just celebrated his son’s 10th birthday, your words cause me to well up inside. They cause me to reflect on my upbringing and my words of advise I have tried to instill in my boys. Thanks for expressing your thoughts for me to read, reflect and use to gather the strength and wisdom to be the best Dad I can. Your devotion and wisdom are beyond understanding. They are Love.

  14. lara June 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I’m honored to have read this. It is so special. Thank you, Jeremy.

  15. Donna A June 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Much love to both of you. I’m sure you dreading writing this or even logging into the account. Thank you for sharing your strength as well as your vulnerability. I’m sure your boys are proud of you, too.

  16. Angela (Ogden) Dephouse June 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Jer, like so many others, I am honored to read this post. It’s like being allowed to get the stepstool out of the garage and standing tiptoe on it so I can peek into this big bowl of rich love and raw grief, and even taste it for a moment. I don’t know why or what happens next–none of us do. But I love you guys and am re-living the boys’ birth day with you today.

  17. heather (olah) dryden June 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    thanks, Jer.
    i recently lost my mom after a really really …way too brief battle with cancer. i’d been through the grieving process during college, having lost a close friend in a car accident. it felt pretty bad and lasted a long time, so when i knew my mom was dying, i did everything i could to believe it wasn’t happening. and just as i thought, it’s a hundred times worse. so many people want to give comfort by reminding me she’s in heaven, or that i’ll get to see her again someday. but like you said, that doesn’t really help. i know it’s supposed to, but how can it? i want my mom. she’s supposed to be here. she’s a part of me, and now that she’s gone, there’s a giant hole in my world. sometimes it doesn’t matter what the truth is, or what you’re *supposed* to believe, the heart feels what it will.

    i’ve often heard myself say to myself – and maybe sometimes outloud – that it hurts so much because she meant so much, because our relationship was so good, because our family was so strong and connected, because the love was so deep and functional and meaningful. i wonder, sometimes, if i *want* it to stop hurting? how would it stop hurting? when i don’t love her as much? when it doesn’t matter to me that she was a huge part of my life? when i stop wanting her to be involved? how can i stop feeling that way about my mom? how could it ever be okay that she’s not with us? why *should* the pain go away? the pain is what i have now. the pain is her presence in my life. i can endure the pain in order to keep loving her and remembering her.

    i understand grief and the grieving process. i understand stages, and that your heart and mind change little by little over time. i think it’s more about callouses growing around the sore bits, more than an blossoming sense of contentment. i’m determined, though, to feel what i feel when i feel it. no apologies. the pain is precious. your boys, your life, your family were precious. experience the pain of your loss and savor it for what it is without letting it compromise who you are. in other words, don’t rush out of the grief because you *think* it should be over, and don’t apologize for still being affected by such a shattering loss. xo

  18. Sheryl Hendricks Loyd June 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Thank you for your transparency and your eloquence, which allow the rest of us a window into your experience. We are all the better for it. I can’t pretend to know what you and your wife need, but I believe that God knows. I continue to pray that he, in his tender mercy and in his time, will reach into your lives with comfort and wisdom.

    Please indulge me one selfish request: please never stop writing. WE need for YOU to write. I believe I am speaking on behalf of many desperately wounded souls who struggle daily with their own, private, hellish Red Moments, but who lack your laser sharp clarity and your elegant and sometimes raw eloquence. Your gifts and your willingness to share them provide us words, metaphors, tools which enable us to better understand and explain to others our own grief experiences.

    Out of your pain, you are serving the needs of others. Oh, yes, I know you would much rather be serving the needs of your three precious sons. Of course. Nevertheless, I want you to know that there are many of us–the number would probably astound you–who are profoundly grateful recipients of your generosity. Thank you and may God bless you richly.

  19. Erin Burtoft June 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Jer, thank you for this amazing post. You are a wonderful example of what every parent should be–honesty coupled with unconditional love and acceptance. I wish so badly that you could have your boys back. I wish so, so often that they would have lived… that you came home to them each day. I just wish things had gone so differently. I’m sorry Jer. I wish I could have held the boys and met them myself. I’m just so sorry. I love all 5 of you.

  20. Christy Rodriguez June 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    We’re thinking of you, Carey and your boys. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Sarah June 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    My first daughter was stillborn 6 years ago today. I remembered that today was your sons’ birthday too. I have 5 years on you and I’m still trying to figure out grief.

  22. K.Lo June 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    it sounds trite to type this here, but I truly mean it–you’re a great dad with some pretty terrific insight and advice. It’s a blessing to witness your fathering and yet at the same time gut-wrenching that Rudyard, Desmond, and Oscar are not here to experience it the way they ought to be. As Carey said in her own post, this is a complicated day with complicated emotions.

  23. Becky June 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    I wish that there were words that could soothe, comfort, encourage and somehow relieve some of your painful heartbreak but I know that is impossible- there are no words. My heart breaks for you and Carey. Although it has been a year, I still can’t believe that I will never have the chance to hold, play and laugh with my precious grandsons; I won’t see you and Carey raise your sons in a home filled with love and joy. I see how you both inspire others to be better parents just by being you and speaking from your heart. I’m in awe of you both.
    There really are no words except I’m so very sorry and I love you very much.

  24. Marla Taviano June 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I remember watching an interview once with George and Barbara Bush. The interviewer asked George about their daughter (Dorothy maybe?) who died when she was 3. He couldn’t even talk about her, he was so shaken up. She had died 50 years before, and it still hurt so bad, was still so fresh.

    Hurting for you today, for all you’ve lost, for all you’ll continue to lose as you move through each life event, big or small, without your handsome boys. I’m so, so, so sorry.

  25. Julie Barnhill June 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    What an honor to read your words and to bear, if only via cyber connection, a sliver of your grief and father heart.

  26. Rachel Joiner June 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Dear Carey and Jeremy,

    I’ve been thinking about you both so much these last few weeks. I can’t imagine how today must feel for you and I’ve wondered if you grieve the happy expectant days that were just a year ago as well. I want you to know that I have prayed for you often.

    Your boys are not the only ones benefiting from your fatherly advice. Thank you for sharing your private father-son moments/thoughts. I don’t know the precise condition/place where your boys are but I do know they love you, they respect you, and they know that they are loved by you. In the end, that’s what every parent wants most. I continue to pray and grieve along with you. I also hope (with you) for a day when you will sit and listen to them tell you of the wonders they have learned.

    I love you both.

  27. April June 4, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    You and Carey and your boys are in my heart today and always.

  28. ivymam June 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    Today I was reading a pregnancy loss blog that I still occasionally visit when I saw the link to this blog. I was surprised to see a site for multiples linked there – I wondered if was for a friend who’d also suffered losses who finally hit the jackpot. So I clicked the link, steeling myself for what I was sure would be a short, painful visit.

    Hours later, I’m still here (albeit with breaks for cat care and to come up for air). I am so sorry about the loss of your beautiful boys. I am awed by the power and eloquence of your words. As others have said, I hope you will continue to write here. Your love for Rudyard, Desmond, and Oscar will always be part of you, and you honor your sons in a profound way by sharing them with us. I met your precious boys for the first time today (and sobbed throughout the memorial video). I would look forward to getting to know them as your relationship with them continues to evolve.

    This blog is also of great value to other bereaved parents, and anyone who’s grieving. Your posts, and many of the comments, are powerful testaments to what grief is. Our culture so often provides Too Much Information about the tawdry and meaningless, yet is incredibly squeamish and insensitive about grief and loss. Your story could help pry open what is often a firmly closed door.

    Like your boys, my daughter Ivy was due in the fall, but born in the summer. At 23 weeks, 1 day gestation, she could not be saved. My heart broke for her all over again, with a freshly broken place for your sons, when you described how you watched your babies struggle to breathe. Nearly 15 years later, the memory of Ivy doing that still wrenches my heart.

    I sang to Ivy throughout my pregnancy, and the night she was born, I did not. We had little time to prepare ourselves for her premature arrival, and we were too overcome to ask the hospital to provide proper photographs and bonding time as a family. Mostly I just wept and told her I was sorry – sorry that her life was not meant to be so short, and sorry that I, her mother, could not save her.

    So in memory of Ivy, and in honor of Rudyard, Desmond, and Oscar’s birthday, here is a verse from a Welsh lullaby that I sang to Ivy while she grew inside me. I will always regret not singing it to her the for the short while that she lay in my arms:

    Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee
    All through the night.
    Guardian angels God will send thee
    All through the night.
    Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
    Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
    I, my loving vigil keeping,
    All through the night.

    Thank you, Jeremy, for the loving vigil that this blog continues to keep. You and Carey are in my thoughts.

    Ivy’s mom
    7 pregnancies 1996-2005
    no living children
    (and hence too broken to blog)

    P.S. The wee feet in my avatar are Ivy’s actual footprints.

  29. Kimber June 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Thank you, Jeremy. Remembering you and Carey today.

  30. Dennis June 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Thank you. You continue to help me process my loss.

  31. Bob W. June 5, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    Wonderful post, Jeremy. Thank you for sharing this most painful experience in such a touching way. I thought about you, Carey and the Boys all day yesterday. It is truly something to see the number of people that have been touched by Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar’s very short time with us. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Happy Birthday Boys, I miss you.

  32. Chrissy June 5, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    I am so sorry. We lost our twin boys 3 years ago a day after they were born. I am praying for you and your family. Lots of love goes out to all of you.

  33. Aubri June 6, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Jer- A hug for you a Carrie would never be enough! My Grandfather passed 19 years ago, May 29th. I would like to say it has gotten easier, her was my grandfather, they pass away after a long like. It has not. You see something and want to share, something reminds you of a moment shared… anger sets in from stolen moments. Its just hard. Tears flow and people question them- whatever! They can… I love him and always will… your boys will forever be apart of your lives, in the shower, the car, the sidewalk and in the cubicle… it happens…

  34. Sandy B June 8, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    Wow – I sure didn’t expect your new post when I dropped in on a whim. I didn’t even realize it has been a year since the anniversary of your boys. Some power must have brought me here. I have thought of you and your boys occasionally this past year. I’m sorry you are having trouble with their loss, but I’m not at all surprised. I still cry in the shower over the loss of loved ones, as well as our yellow lab we lost a month ago.

    I wish I had some words of comfort, but I do believe your letters are reaching the boys, and they are just as proud of you and their mom as you are of them.

  35. Laura June 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Your words, so bittersweet to read, bring tears as I attempt to share in your agony. You and Carrie are heros to me for sharing such intimate emotions and I agree that you must know just how cathartic and healing your words are to others in our times of need. There is no ‘right way’ to grieve. Much love to you and Carrie.

  36. Jennifer Bennie February 19, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Love. Nothing but Love.

  37. Candice April 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Standing in my kitchen with tears streaming down my face. I found your blog shortly after our twins were born. You had just started blogging. I remember being at work and reading the story of your boys arrival and crying quietly. You and Carey have been on my mind often since then and again today so I decided to look for your blog again. I cannot imagine the immeasurable grief you must feel as losing your three beautiful boys before you got the chance to teach them so many things. Just wanted to tell you that you’re not forgotten by this reader and I thank you for sharing your boys’ lives with us. ❤

  38. mom January 23, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    There’s a hole in my soul upon reading of your journey through parenthood thus far…perhaps rather a hole that’s been reopened if you will….I long to believe that parents of multiples share a bond; an unspoken, an unwritten bond whether they’ve met or not…the courage, the strength you’ve exhibited in sharing such an intimate/sacred journey with others has made me long to be a better parent myself…i’m vowing from this day forward to not forsake the blessings bestowed upon me but rather embrace the “overwhelming joy” that’s been gifted to me…i thank you with all my heart for allowing me to relive our journey through yours… to not only hold precious the smallest of details from the very beginning of the journey; but, to crave the milestones that lie ahead….I don’t know what lead me to you tonight but I can’t help but wish three years past I’d discovered you when our journey began as well, for it wasn’t until this very moment that I realized just how much more I could be or rather long to be all b/c of your captivating words, your vulnerability unbeknownst…Iong before I heard the word strong positive, triplets, baby a b & c, I felt time was the one thing we yearned for more of and seemingly the one thing we could never have back…peace I give you, peace be with you….not only today but in the days, weeks, months, years to come until you once again are able to hold your children in your arms…once again are whole…

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