Celebrating birthdays are hard after someone you love has died. I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday at all 3 months after Madox’s left. I knew how shattered I felt. How angry and alone I was, knowing how broken the world is to take a child at such a young age. What I didn’t know was how Valin felt. I knew he was sad, but he was so quiet. Didn’t share his feelings, or thoughts about such a significant loss.
Valin’s 11th birthday was 5 months after our lives changed and I wanted to do something special for him. Unfortunately, I was not in a good head space to think of anything. I met a lovely lady by the name of Judi Newton who advocates/supports children fighting illnesses. She has a page called Sunshine Snail Mail, where she organizes cards to be sent to a special birthday child who is battling an illness, which also includes the siblings. She had asked if she can request for people to send Valin some birthday well wishes and I agreed thinking he would get about 20 cards. Boy was I wrong!
A flood of cards arrived from all across the world. Our mailbox was getting full day after day. I would empty it daily and hide all the cards in a bag so Valin didn’t see them until his birthday. It was funny that our mail carrier noticed all the cards addressed to Valin, that she figured out it was his birthday and added her own card for him. I laughed at how cute she was. She didn’t even know our story at that time.
Day after day we received cards from Chile, Austria, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, Romania, Belgium, Japan, UK, USA, Canada (including an entire grade 5 class from River West Park School), Taiwan (including an entire grade 1 class), Dubai, Philippines, and Costa Rica. We had homemade cards, beautiful artwork from fellow kids, gifts, and photos of families who sent the cards. I lost count after 100 cards. It was absolutely beautiful.
This year was 5 years since that avalanche of cards. I have a secret. I kept every single card. Every single piece of art. Every single word. I couldn’t just throw them out. A few days before Valin turned 16 in January, I pulled them all out. “Do you remember these Valin?” He smiled and was shocked I kept them all. “How did you manage to get all those people I don’t know to send me a card?” I explained what happened and he just smiled and simply said “cool”. Teens with their incessant talking!
To everyone who sent a card to Valin, thank you. Not only did we all read the cards 5 years ago, but I reread each and every one of them again this year. It really filled my heart knowing how many kind souls are out there, knowing a simple card would make a child smile. Thank you to Judi and her kindness. You have helped so many kids and families smile a little more during a difficult situation. I guess it’s true. A little gesture goes a long way.