My dear, sweet, precious Hudson,
Today is your second birthday, my girl. Last year, on your first birthday, I had such good intentions of writing you a letter. I had planned to write you a letter every year on your birthday so that one day when you were a lot older, you could read them all and know how much I love you and all the crazy things I thought about when you were growing up. But the day got closer and I was busy planning your birthday party and who knows what else, and mostly, I just wasn’t even sure what I should say in such a letter. I was imagining you reading it 20 years down the road, and I couldn’t figure out what it was that I would want you to hear then. So I put it off and put it off, until finally it seemed silly to even try to do it for your first birthday, and I figured I would try again next year.
And here we are. Oh, how much I have learned since you came into my life. But most importantly, both through your life and your death, my sweet girl, I have learned that we can’t put things like that off. When we are inspired to say what is in our hearts, we need to do it right away, for we might not get a next year. We might not even get a tomorrow. And instead of worrying so much about what the “right” things might be to say in such a letter, I should have just said what was in my heart. That has been your lesson to me, over and over again, to cherish every moment and to always act on what’s in my heart. I’m so grateful that even though I never wrote that letter, I did tell you what was in my heart every single day, multiple times a day. I can remember so many times, just walking around the house with you in my arms, when I would pull you close, give you a kiss, and tell you how much I loved you, over and over. Even though you may not have understood the words, I know that you knew how I felt.
And now it’s your second birthday. And still I’m not sure what to say. Or how to say it. I think so much often about where you are, if you are anywhere. When you were with us here on earth, you were just so full of life and joy all the time that it is hard to imagine that your spirit just ended, vanished, when your heart stopped beating. I just don’t see how that can be. I don’t know what I believe about if or how we go on after death, but I think for now, my girl, I just have to believe that somehow I will see you again. I have no idea how that will occur, or in what form we’ll all be—would you still be 17 months old while I am 90 (if I am so lucky)? Will we have no form at all but will simply know each other’s spirits immediately? Will you have been waiting a very long time for me to join you or will it seem to you as if no time has passed since we saw one another last? Can you see me every day when I cry for you? Can you hear me every day when I think about you and talk to you? Can you still feel how very much I love you and how terribly sad I am that you are gone and that I have to live without you? Are you sad that I am so sad? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions or if there are any answers that I will ever know, but the idea that you just simply no longer exist except in all of our hearts is really just too terrible to contemplate.
How I wish you were here, my sweet girl. It is already hard for me to imagine what you would be like now—it seems like you would have grown so much in the last six months, both physically and cognitively. Your language skills had already taken off so much in the last few months before you died—there is just no telling what you’d be doing and saying now. I imagine you’d be talking in full sentences and running at full speed and jumping all over the place. But other than that, I just don’t really know what two-year-olds do. And I have no idea what kinds of things you might like now. I have in mind that I would have made Elmo cupcakes for your birthday party, but maybe you’d be way past Elmo by now. You never got a chance to know what a big believer I am in birthdays—although you were there for your birthday party last year, and although you were a very good sport in putting up with all of my antics, you were mostly just a sweet, willing participant in what was really my party to celebrate your life and all it had meant to me. But I was so looking forward to the days when your birthday would be all about you, to having all your presents wrapped and ready for you to open first thing in the morning, making you a special breakfast, putting notes in your pockets and lunchbag for you to find at school, making your favorite meal for dinner, baking your favorite kind of cake, watching your favorite movie and letting you stay up a little late to celebrate, and throwing whatever kind of party you wanted (even if I had to swallow my tongue and throw you a party around some crazy commercialized theme).
I am so, so sad, Hudson, that I will never know about all your favorite things beyond those that you loved before you died. And those things will be forever precious to me—Elmo, buses, airplanes, dogs (especially Bess), birds, the moon, all kinds of books, the bath, rocking in the rocking chair, your belly button, balloons, saying your own name, singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Row, Row Your Boat, making animal noises, dancing with Mommy and Daddy in the kitchen, swinging around and around with Daddy, french toast and cheese grits, looking out the front door, going to the zoo, and so many more. What a life we had with you, my girl. So many things to love and remember. But I am just heartbroken for all that you will never experience. I ache with the unfairness of it for you. For us, it is just wrong—there is no fair or unfair, because no one deserves to lose a child or experience the anguish we have felt over your death. But for you, it is just totally unfair--you embraced everything with such joy and enthusiasm and you deserved a long and excellent life of bringing that joy and enthusiasm to everything you did and everyone you touched.
Your daddy and I thought long and hard about how to remember your birthday today. As much as I want to celebrate the wondrous life we had, we just don’t feel very much like celebrating, because we are just so very, very sad that you are not with us anymore. But we love you so much and are so grateful to you for everything that you taught us with your joyful, loving, giving spirit, and that is what we want to remember and honor today. So we bought some of your favorite toys and books and are taking them to other children who have to spend time in the hospital where you were sick—I know that if we’d had to spend any extended time there with you, we’d all have been grateful for things that you could enjoy. And we’re taking some toys and treats to the doggies at the animal shelter—we know you would have loved that, and you would have loved visiting there with us, just like you loved watching all the dogs run around at the dog park. And then we are going to go the National Arboretum, where you, Daddy, and I spent so many happy days—we are going to take a small portion of your ashes with us to leave there. Now a part of you will always be in that place that we loved together, in the grass, under the trees, with the flowers, in the snow, under the feet of many more children and their parents and their dogs who will go there to play. We think you would have liked that very much if you could have understood such things. And Hudson, you wouldn’t believe it—so many, many people all over the world are thinking of you today and are doing something kind for someone else or an animal or the world because they love YOU and want to honor YOU. Isn’t that amazing? That’s how much you continue to have an impact on the world, my girl. If your spirit is that powerful in death, I can only imagine what kind of impact you would have had if you had lived a hundred more years. I have always been so proud to be your mommy, my girl, but never more so than today.
It is raining today, sweet one, just like it was on the days of both of your memorial services. I don’t know what to make of that. One of our friends said that maybe you are trying to tell us that it’s OK to be sad. And maybe that’s right. Maybe the rain is here to keep my tears company. But I do wish that the sun were shining—it’s your birthday, and the sun should be shining just like you continue to shine on all of us every single second. It has been a very long, very dark six months without you. And I still shudder to think of all the many years without you that are stretching out before us. But you are our light, a sweet spirit to guide us always. I could never say enough how grateful I am to have had you in my life for even one beautiful second. You have taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined I would learn. You made me want to be a better person every day that I spent with you here on earth, and you continue to make me want to be a better person every day that I live without you, and that is an incredible gift, my girl. That is a gift that gives and gives and gives, not just to me, but to everyone around me as well, especially to your daddy and your little brother or sister who will join us in May, and hopefully more little brothers and sisters after that. I will tell your story and share your gift and teach your lesson forever, my girl: to enjoy and cherish what is and stop worrying about what should and shouldn’t be.
You are gone but you should not be. But, following your lead, I will cherish what is— that your dad’s and my lives, and so many others, are changed forever because you were in them. Your smile, joyful laugh, mischievous ways, sweet voice, and wise countenance are indelibly burned on my heart-- I would do anything to hear you say “Mama” just one more time. You are gone but you should not be. Thank you for helping me cherish what is. I love you.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Hudson. I love you and miss you so much.