Our Ari turned six yesterday. I say "our" because he will always belong to me and Ronen, he is always our firstborn, the boy who made us parents six years ago. The boy who took us from two to three, who catapulted us into a new universe of joy and worry and partnership.
I still remember the first time we heard Ari laugh, giggles erupting from such innocence and softness, the way Ronen and I laughed with him, grabbing each other's hand and squeezing tight, united in a previously unfathomable love for this tiny human that we had created. That he was happy and healthy - it was an incredible gift, an unforgettable moment. We chose each other and Ari chose us. How lucky we were.
There have been birthdays in the almost seven months since Ronen died. The week he was in the hospital, our sweet wonderful Lev turned two, the party cancelled but the light of the candle placed in his pancake reflected in his blue eyes. There was Ronen's birthday and then mine. But this, this anniversary of Ari, this anniversary of the start of our family, this was much more profound.
This is the first year of Ari on this planet without his beloved Aba. The first year of our oldest son with one parent. At birthdays past, amidst the presents and the cakes and the kids and the parties, I would always share an unspoken congratulatory smile; a kiss; a hug with Ronen, marveling together at the beautiful boy Ari was becoming. My partner, my husband, his father. Forever.
Now, I do not have that. My partners in this are my incredible family - my parents and brother, my aunt and uncle, my in-laws who love Ari with such fierceness and offer a sense of protection to him that takes my breath away. My amazing friends who love me and loved Ronen and love our kids. They hug them and tell them how proud they are of them, of me, and I am so grateful.
Because it is so hard. Day in and day out, the waves of sadness and disbelief still crash and froth all around us. I still imagine hearing a knock at the door and there Ronen is. Surprise, he says. Did you miss me?
And I run to him, and there's his unrivaled embrace, the best hugger in the world, and the kids run too and there we all are, crying and laughing in that circle of warmth. That circle of four.
There is a much bigger circle now, although it is not the same. A village of support that I don't take for granted for one second.
And today, there is a six year old boy who still laughs, who still can be silly, who is still the empathic and kind includer his father was. I don't take that for granted either. It's a miracle, a testament to Ari and Lev's resilience, to Ronen, to me, to the village.