I wrote you a letter on your birthday, and so I think it is only fair that I write you a letter on mine, too; after all, it is because of you that I am physically here. You gave me the greatest gift a human can give another: life. Moreover, you promised to love me, no matter what that entailed. Incidentally, that entailed giving birth (sorry about that tail bone…), changing poopy diapers, and a whole lot of laundry. So thanks!
This was my seventh birthday without you, and Mom, it’s gotten so much easier. I feel like- wait I know– that you would be so proud of the people I love and who love me back without reserve. They make everything so much easier. But that doesn’t mean that I breezed right through. In the morning, I thought about how 19 years ago, you were in labor, maybe rushing to the hospital, or eating ice chips while Dad tried to make jokes. Around lunchtime, I thought how 19 years ago, you were preparing to meet me. And that night, I thought about how you might have been spending this evening 19 years ago gazing at me, wondering who I would become and what I would do, and of course, it made me sad that you aren’t here to see the answers to those questions. I’d be a poet, a coffee-drinker, a snuggler. I’d grow into a God-fearing, sensitive, chattering woman. And I don’t wonder, but rather I am certain that you would be proud if you could have caught a glimpse of that ebony-haired baby 19 years down the road, because 19 years later, though I didn’t have you, I had more than I could ask for. I had a mother who drove here and bought me french fries and yogurt and left me with a plate of brownies (if that’s not love, then I don’t think love exists.) I had a group of friends who sneaked into my room and filled it with balloons just because. And on my birthday, I had two best friends who couldn’t wait until morning; instead, they came in at 2 a.m. with a present that caused joy to run down my face.
Mama, soon it will have been eight years without you. It occurred to me that in three years, I will have lived as long without you as I did with you, and that is startling. I imagine there might be a day when my heart realizes this and lets go, stops shaking at the thought of a birthday or a Christmas or a bad day without you. I’m sure it will happen soon. I am certain that one day I will officially have moved on, and I won’t need to write any more blog posts or short stories about losing you. My friends won’t have to secretly roll their eyes when I talk about missing you. They won’t have to think, “Man, you were eleven. Enough already.” I will think of you only with happy thoughts, and I won’t find myself choked up when I talk about you. I most definitely won’t ache for your touch, your voice, your “Happy Birthday.”
Sunday wasn’t that day and today isn’t, either.
All this isn’t to worry you. I carry on quite well; I smile and I laugh and I live life. I giggle incessantly with my friends while I still can and I make bad decisions and I praise the Lord for He has been so good to me! I sing and I dance and I talk too loudly in the library. I bounce around and I ramble and I do all of these things with the joy Christ has given me back.
But this letter is to say that I didn’t forget that you were around. I didn’t forget that 19 years ago, you gave me life and chestnut curls and an outrageous laugh. I am still very much your child, and I wouldn’t give that up for the world. I carry you around, even though that brings the ache sometimes. But, Mom, I don’t mind. I am certain a day when you’ve faded will come, but I don’t want it to. I want to remember the woman who bore me, who wrapped me and carried me around, who kissed me on the forehead and declared her love. I hide that love in my soul, and should that day come when I forget, all I have to do is glance into the mirror, and for a moment, I can see you, smiling back at me.
And for that, I thank you.