on Sunday afternoon, at the park with the kids, my bracelet broke.

online friends made the bracelet for me shortly after Posey was born last fall. an ornate art deco clasp, and three strands of silver beading, each with the name and birthstone of one of my children. Oscar & Finn, April, crystals. Josephine, September, sapphire. it was gorgeous. and i cried when i opened the little package, because this bracelet made and sent by semi-strangers had all three of my babies’ names on it, the only thing in my possession linking the three so visibly.

it made me smile.

the strand that broke last Sunday was Finn’s. i scrabbled in the early spring grass, trying to contain the beads as they rolled brightly away and at the same time keep Posey from swallowing the ones i retrieved.  i found a few of the crystals, found the F, the two Ns. but the little square bead with the I escaped me. i got down on my hands and knees, traced the dirt with my fingertips. gone.

the strand of my broken child, always so elusive, broken. the wind blew my hair into my smarting eyes.

then i caught myself. i raised my head to the sharp gust and the dry leftover leaves skittering. he is not in a bracelet, i told myself. he cannot be lost again. he is everywhere, dust, in these leaves, in his brother and sister. he is written on you.  i stood up, spun my head around almost as if i expected to see him there, some little colt-legged shadow with a brown bowl cut.

hello, you.

i left that bead somewhere in that playground, lost like the child himself, relinquished to the world, the universe. it is there, somewhere, in that grass. i just cannot see it.

it is fitting, the bracelet perhaps more honest with its broken strand than it was before.  this is my family picture, three children, one floating free, without an I.  and on his birthday this year, i do not sorrow any more. where once there was a hole where he had been, a gaping wound, now time has left mostly love, indelible, stronger than death.

happy fourth birthday, my Finn…my wee one, my shadow baby, my son. i smile at you.