I remember the birthday we spent together three years ago. It must have been a few weeks into your chemo; but the scars of your struggle were now starting to show. For the first time in so many years, you and I didn’t stay up late. For the first time in so many years, there was no childish, excited wait. For the first time in so many years, there was no birthday cake because no matter what you ate at that point in time, your head would spin and nauseate. It felt sad, having to celebrate your liveliness so quietly.
The next morning, I overslept. So when I woke up, the first thing I did was sprint up the steps to your bedroom door. I imagined you would be sleeping so I quietly pushed it open; hoping that I’d be the first face you’d see as you woke up on your special day. But as I stepped into your room, I felt this quiet, impending feeling of gloom. One experienced in the countless hospital trips that conditioned you and I to feel nothing but doom. I saw an empty bed, and a rush of blood to my head said- something’s wrong. I knew you couldn’t even walk straight without me by your side to take your weight. I could feel my hands shake; I could feel the insides of my head ache and throb and about to break. I called out your name, again and again and again and then suddenly, I heard mine in return. A sigh of relief as I immediately turned to where it came from.
As I pushed open the bathroom door, I saw you slouched against the wall, sitting calmly on the floor. Trying to maintain a fine line between livid worrying and escalating dread, I just stood there with a million thoughts inside my head, and you, you just looked at me, and you smiled. Typical of you, you know? Everytime you knew there was tension you couldn’t dilute, you just flashed a smile so adorably cute hoping I would forget. I almost did. But I asked again.
You smiled once more. And then you spoke. In words I wish I remembered, so I could put them in quotes and show the entire world how you saw it with so much hope. You told me how it hurt to be a burden. How on days that hovered between bad and worse you felt like an absolute curse that just refused to go away. You told me how it felt, when you needed me to walk two metres or less, and how it made you feel absolutely helpless, every single day. So on your birthday, you decided to be different.
It hurts my heart to imagine how you swayed across the room to where you fell, but for that one day living in hell made you feel a little more at ease, even if it meant falling to your knees, at least you did it all by yourself. I didn’t know whether to smile or to cry; but these things you said were like invisible forces pulling me from both sides. I heaved you up, and I walked you back to your bed. You were smiling, but your eyes were wet. I tried to give you the warm hug that you’d mastered over the years, one that had so often given my tears a reason to change into something else. If only you knew how much I live that memory, even today.
Three years later, I celebrate your birthday the same way you and I did back then. There is silence, and a quiet birthday wish in this letter; and an empty realization that things could have been so much better. What I miss far outweighs what I have found; but that balance would tilt so drastically if you were around today. Today, I wish I could borrow your shoulders to keep my head; I wish I could kiss your cheeks and tell you everything I never said, instead of writing things you will never read, unless heaven has a speed post service (which it desperately needs.) What I would give, to have you live, not in memories but somewhere real. Every second spent wondering how that would feel suddenly, be worth the time, and the energy.
Anyway, this isn’t about my wishes, its about how hard it is loving you from afar. I only wish I could find the words to define these feelings of mine with a beauty that was half as perfect as you are. I hope you have fun there (for heaven’s sake) and that God employs the best bakery to make your cake. Stay as lively as you’ve always been, remember to lick the icing from the bottom of the cake tin, just how you’ve always liked it.
Down here, Dad will raise a drink and we all will keep you in our prayers and think about the countless reasons you gave us to call happiness our own. We’ll keep missing you, even if we are three parts of a broken mess; and we will love you, alwaysthemore, nevertheless.
I miss you. I love you.