Being that this was Zachary’s big 1-0, it was only fitting to make his birthday a big celebration.
Bill proposed the idea of making a special trip to Pennsylvania to celebrate. Having family and friends surrounding us was an easy sell. Generally this time of the year for me is difficult. When your child’s birthday is approaching, you’re normally shopping for the perfect gift and planning a fun party or event for your kiddo to celebrate their big day. Since Zachary’s 1st birthday I haven’t been able to really do that until this year.
It was a nice feeling to wake up and know that I had something wonderful to fill this day, something to look forward to. Normally on Zachary's birthday I wake up when I feel ready. Then I work up to either Bill or I buying some balloons. Then we sit around the house and work up to being ready to write special messages on them. Then we work up to driving to the park to release them. I cry. Then I sit quietly with my family for the rest of the day. It’s special. It’s our tradition, but it’s uneventful… just what I can handle.
Last year around Zachary’s 9th birthday my friend Kim messaged me and asked if she could come take pictures on Zachary’s 10th birthday for me. So all year I looked forward to having her there with us to celebrate and capture the day. Her pictures have always been a treasure to me and I was so thankful and excited.
After our family decided we were going to Marley’s Mission for Zachary’s big day, we started talking about what his birthday would look like. Kim suggested that we find 10 boys to purchase gifts for in honor of Zachary’s 10th birthday. We contacted Vivian at Big Brothers of Scranton. She came up with a list of 10 boys for us. They were all different ages and they were all on the wait list for this program. It would be a special little surprise for them to receive a gift from us in honor of Zachary. My family enjoyed going to Toys R Us and finding a fun gift for the 10-year-old boy we picked. It felt like I was shopping for Zachary.
To take the pressure off of me, Bill, Mandy and Kim organized and planned. Bill helped nail down the plans and Mandy and Kim organized the beautiful cupcakes and decorations for Zachary’s little party. Mandy picked out all of the wrapping paper and bows, and Kim had a beautiful banner and name tags made for each of the boys for the gifts.
The morning of Zachary’s birthday was special. I had a different feeling. First I woke up to see Zachary all over Facebook. Many of my friends and family changed their profile picture and cover photo to honor and celebrate Zachary’s birthday. There was also a very loud Thunderclap sent out at 7am. Over 75 of my friends had shared Zachary’s Heroes and an additional 80 people, reaching a potential 60,000 people through social media! It was an incredible way to start the day.
We then all slowly started to get ready. I was excited and looking forward to the day ahead. Bill and I stopped at the store to pick up two-dozen balloons and then headed to Marley’s Mission to start the celebration.
Kim and Mandy were already there setting up. I had a moment when I realized that though all of this excitement and anticipation; I wasn’t going to get to see Zach. I was sad at the thought, but worked through it. Luckily the night before Zachary came to me in a dream. It was the most real he had ever been. We cuddled and talked and laughed. I think it was his gift to me and his way of saying, I love you.
Soon everyone arrived, including my two beautiful sisters. They made the trip in from Long Island to celebrate with us. It was so special to look around and see so many faces, all there because of their love for Zachary.
We all gathered and started to write on balloons. Each year I take it as my opportunity to write him a letter from the heart about the past year. There’s something healing about writing it all down and releasing it up to heaven. Liam sat with me and I held his balloon while he wrote. He’s got the biggest heart and he has grown to love his big brother. He drew a picture that tugged on my heart. He drew himself on a bike and then he drew Zachary flying above him. He said, “You always watch over me.” It was great to walk around and see all of the other balloons and the special messages everyone wrote.
We then took a walk outside and released the balloons one at a time. When Aunt Rita released her balloon, she said to him that that he inspires us. That got the tears started. I looked around and was just so happy to see so many people there with me for Zachary this year. As his mommy I just want him to be loved and remembered. I’m getting my wish. I watched as everyone else released their balloon. We all just stood there and watched them climb into the sky. Bill and I released our balloons last. It was emotional, like every year… but this year I had my whole family around us. Kenzy and Liam gave us a big hug. I have the best kids.
After the release we all gathered inside to wrap the gifts for the boys and eat cupcakes. It was special to see all of the gifts purchased and the thoughtfulness that went into wrapping (even you Gene, the one cut wrapper).
After everyone left, we got to take a very special photo. Kim took one of the five of us. Me, Bill, Kenzy, Liam and Zachary. I love it!
Then Kim surprised me with a project that she worked on for the Remembering Zachary Project. She set up a Facebook page where she gathered many photographers. They each committed to using their gifts to do something special in memory of Zachary. Reading each of their posts was emotional and heart warming. Kim knows how special photography is to me and this was such a great way to remember Zachary. Many families will be receiving the gift of some very special photos of their family in memory of Zach. Wow!
It was just an incredible day. I left Marley’s Mission feeling fulfilled. My heart was happy and Zachary was with me.
Thank you to everyone who was part of making this day special! <3 I love you all!