by Angela Miller
It’s here. Another birthday. Another birthday without you. I’ve done this eleven times before– yet it never seems to get any easier.
No matter how many years go by, there never feels like a “right” way to celebrate your birthday without you here. It feels wrong on every level, from the top of my head, to the tips of my toes, even my bones weep and ache at the thought of celebrating your birthday without you. It should be a day of marking another year on the tree of your life. Instead, it marks another year trying to fill the gaping hole you left behind. Another year of wondering who you would have been. Another year of aching for you.
Today you should be thirteen. Thirteen. Your friends are starting to get facial hair, and it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how that can be.
My son, my precious son: forever loved, forever missed, forever frozen in time. Today we should be celebrating your birthday– with you, alive. Not sending lanterns or balloons up to the sky, or letters to heaven; not desperately looking for signs from you, not doing things in your memory and honor. We should be laughing with you, audibly belly laughing, laughing so hard we cannot stop crying.
We shouldn’t have to wonder what your voice sounds like, what your 13-year-old arms feel like wrapped around us when you squeeze us tight.
We should know.
We should be able to ask you what you want for your birthday dinner and dessert, ask you how you want to spend the day, instead of asking your younger siblings to pick your birthday dinner and dessert in your memory.
I can’t even wrap my mind around who you would have been; the growing and grown version of you. I cannot wrap my mind around this beautiful teenager who should be growing up before my eyes, with the sandy blonde hair you want to tussle, and the captivating blue eyes that used to stop people in their tracks because they reached soul-deep. Oh how I miss looking into those piercing, beautiful blue eyes of yours.
Unfortunately my pictures of you will never change and grow like you should have. The memories I have of you are finite. I can replay them in my mind, but I can never make more memories with you. The memories stopped the moment your heart did.
My life as I knew it ended with yours. A large part of me died with you. And I’m not sure the new me (the me I am now in this new life I’ve built) will ever feel like my best me. I feel like a bruised and broken me, a foreign me. Often I like the old me, better. At least my mind remembers I was better then– but maybe I just felt better then. It feels like my best me was the me I was before my life was permanently marked by this irreversible trauma. The new me feels like whoever and whatever is now left over. Whatever parts of me survived the wreckage, whatever parts I’ve been able to salvage– and a whole lot of broken pieces trailing behind, that will never fit back together, no matter how hard I try.
I don’t know what you would look like, today, on your birthday. I don’t know what your voice would sound like, or how your hugs would feel. And that breaks my heart. But I do know your love, and I know how big our love is together. And I know your love is still here, carrying on, making an impact and changing lives.
Your love is a part of me. You’re a part of me. Wherever I go, you go. Always and forever. Nothing can separate us. Not time or space, not even death.
You are my heartbeat, my everything, the inspiration behind everything I do. Our hearts are forever intertwined. My love for you, and your love for me will never die.
So on your birthday, and every day, I will focus on just that: our unending love. I will soak it in, breathe it in, let it lift me higher. And I will continue to let our love light the way.
ANGELA MILLER is an internationally known writer and speaker on grief and loss. She is the best-selling author of You Are the Mother of All Mothers, and the founder and executive director of the award-winning grief organization, A Bed For My Heart. After the death of her son, Angela founded A Bed For My Heart in 2013, and has given people around the world a compassionate and supportive community to express their grief and honor their children. Her article, “7 Things I’ve Learned Since the Loss of My Child,” has been shared over one million times. Angela’s website ABedForMyHeart.com has almost two million visitors per year, and has become a trusted resource for grieving families worldwide. She has been featured in People, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Blog Talk Radio, Love What Matters, Listen to Your Mother, and more. Angela’s writing has comforted millions of hurting hearts around the world. You Are the Mother of All Mothers is her first book, and is dedicated to grieving mothers everywhere.