Last fall, three and a half years after Riley went to heaven, we finally told the boys.
"You have a brother or sister in heaven."
We told them the story. As we sat around our dining room table, our faces flickering in the candlelight of a mid-autumn night, we told them. We told them how excited we had been to give a sibling to Ben and Kyle. How we'd waited to tell them about the baby...and how our little one flew away before we did. We told them how we decided to keep the knowledge close to our hearts until a time when they were a little older.
They listened quietly. Somberly. Our oldest son, in particular, was pensive. He asked a few questions. They all were glad to think of meeting Riley in heaven someday.
A month or two later, in the midst of some other conversation, Benjamin said something like " Well, I think I know what the worst pain you ever felt was."
I looked at him curiously. "Yeah? What do you think it was?"
"When Riley died and went to heaven."
I sat silent, unable to speak. Then... "You're right, Ben. That was the worst pain I've ever felt. Not in my body, but in my heart." I paused. "But I'm so, so happy to know that Riley is in heaven....and that we can see Riley there someday."
And so, sweet Riley's lifesong lives on. The precious weight of it matters. In my heart, and all those that little life has touched. In the hearts and lives of my children.
"I once was dead, but now I live."