My dearest little girl,
Oh, my girl. I miss you so terribly, dear one. I love writing these letters to you because it helps me feel almost like I am really talking to you. I don’t know whether you can hear me or not, but my heart swells in the hope that maybe, somehow, you can.
Today is your third birthday, and I don’t even know what to say. I feel like I have been thinking about this letter for many days on end, and now that I’m sitting here writing it, I just feel at such a loss. What can I say that can communicate all at once how much I love you, how much I miss you, how proud I am of you, how sad and angry I am for all that you are missing? How can I possibly express the depth of my sorrow that you are gone?
Three. It seems so very old to me, sweetheart. I know that sounds crazy, but given that it is more than twice as old as you were when we knew you last, it seems very old indeed. The three-year-olds I see are doing the most amazing things, and I can only imagine that you’d be doing even more amazing things, given the amazing things you were already doing for your age when you died. Again, I wonder how we would have celebrated your birthday this year. What in the world do three-year-olds like to do? I haven’t the foggiest idea. The one thing that I have pictured over and over in my head, though, is that we might have taken you to see your first movie in a movie theater. The first time I saw the trailer for “The Muppets” (and every time I’ve seen anything about it since) all I could think about was you. I have been trying to picture your excitement over getting to see your first real movie. I can almost see you waiting anxiously in your seat in the movie theater, popcorn in hand, little legs pumping up and down just as they always did when you sat in your highchair or stroller at home, just as your little brother’s do now. And afterwards, I imagine you would have talked about it for days and days, reminding me of all your favorite parts. I just watched our videos of your birthday again—what a blast we had on your first and only birthday. It’s hard to imagine how much more fun it would be now, now that you would be old enough to know what all the excitement was about. What fun we would have had, sweet girl. I am so, so sorry that you aren’t here for that.
I find more and more that I can only picture your face as it exists in our many, many photos of you. I try hard to picture you otherwise, in all the many situations where I never captured a photo, but I’ve been looking so long and hard at our pictures of you that it’s those images that are now burned in my memory, those images that pop up in my head when I think of your face. I can still see other ordinary moments with you in my mind’s eye, but even then, whenever I picture you opening and closing the cabinets in the kitchen, or climbing in and out of the rocking chair, or voraciously gobbling down your food, my imagination gets interrupted by some picture of you in some similar pose. And it makes me so very sad. I am so angry that you are not here making all kinds of new memories with us, making real faces at us, instead of being frozen in time in these images we were lucky enough to capture in a picture.
I have also been trying so hard to picture what you would actually look like now. I picture your same stick-straight, wispy hair, just a little longer and maybe with just the slightest curl at the end, especially on a humid day. I picture you wearing mostly pants and t-shirts, clothes that are easy to run around and crawl around and climb in, but that’s probably just me projecting my own hopes for the kind of kid you’d have been (and seemed to be becoming). For all I know, you’d have turned out to be the biggest princess (and princess-lover) of them all, and I would have loved your passion for that, too. When we go places, I picture you running around in the grass at the Arboretum, pressing your nose against the glass in the panda house at the zoo, whining at me for a toy in the grocery store, asking me interesting questions that help me understand (and make me marvel at) how your brain is working, making drawings with your getting-less-chubby-every-day fingers. But really, those imaginings, too, are based largely on the time I have spent with your friends, the pictures I see posted on Facebook, and the kids I see when I am out and about who I imagine are close to your age. As is always the case, my precious baby, I hate, hate, hate that I don’t know what you would look like now, what you would be like now. I hate that the best I can do is imagine all of these things, my heart breaking every second of the time.
But I am forever grateful that whenever I picture you, the one thing I always see is your brilliant, beautiful smile, and I don’t imagine that would have changed one bit.
Your sweet little brother Jackson looks so much like you that it is almost eerie sometimes, Hudson. There are times when I look at him and it feels like someone has grabbed my breath right from my chest, because I could be looking right at you. Many times, he’ll put on an expression or move in a certain way that immediately makes me think of you. And many pictures of him come out looking so much like you at a similar age doing a similar thing. What a gift that is for all of us. I think one day, he will be very proud to learn how much he is like his big sister. How I long for a photo of the two of you together, for you to be able to give him the wonderful hugs I know you’d be giving all over the place now, for him to crack up at the silly faces you’d make for him.
The sun was shining today, love, shining so brightly in a beautiful, cloudless blue sky, and I was so very glad. It was raining last year on your birthday—it was cold and gray and dreary, and even though the weather matched my mood perfectly, I thought it was so wrong for the day we celebrate you. I wanted the sun to be shining just like you were always shining when you were here with us and like you are always shining even now. So when today dawned sunny and gorgeous, I welcomed it as another gift, maybe from you, maybe from the universe, but wherever it came from, it was so much more fitting for the day we celebrate the day you came into our lives. The pain of losing you has been and still is the worst pain I could ever imagine, dear one, but even if I could spare myself all the pain and more, I would never, ever trade even one single, solitary second of the time we had with you, Hudson. You brought more joy to our lives in one second than we ever imagined possible in a lifetime. Only a sunny, cloudless day could possibly be right for celebrating that.
It was a little chilly, but we all bundled up (your Poppy is here with us, too, to help us remember you today) and headed out to do our One Good Things that we will do every year on this very special day. We took a bunch of dog toys to the animal shelter and lots of Elmo dolls and copies of your favorite books to Dr. Bear’s Closet at the hospital where you died. But before we did either of those things, we went out to the Arboretum and sat on your bench in the sunshine. Your dad sat with your brother in his lap, and he pulled me in close, and we three sat there silently in a huddle for a long time. I wept, both softly and loudly, for all that we have all lost, for your terrible absence. Remarkably, your brother sat so quietly with us—even though we were probably squeezing him too hard, he didn’t let out even the slightest fuss. It was almost as if he understood that moment exactly, understood its solemnity, its awful beauty. At one point as I cried, he reached his arm up over his head from his spot in your dad’s lap and touched my face so gently that it seemed almost as though he had been prompted to do so. I like to imagine that was your doing.
So we spent the day in much the same way as we did last year, but again, I was grateful for the sun—a gloomy day would also have failed to capture how much joy your little brother has brought back into our lives. He could never take your place—ever—but his presence is such a tangible reminder of how wonderful our life was with you, and he brings us so much hope for the joy that still awaits all of us. Never in our worst dreams did we ever imagine we’d have to live our lives without you, Hudson. Never. Even now, I can still only barely grasp at the very edges of the truth that we must do so. But I know in my heart that the best way that we can honor your life and remember you every day is to live our lives with your spirit as our guide, which means that we have to keep on, and we have to embrace all the joy in front of us. As my crying ebbed while we sat on your bench, your brother started to squirm, so we picked him up and turned him around and stood him in our laps (his favorite position, just like you at his age), and he rewarded us with the biggest grin. And as I have done so many times since he was born, and as I imagine I will do regularly for the rest of this long life without you, I laughed through my tears. Because I remembered again how fortunate your daddy and I are to be your parents and Jackson’s. I wish the world had not been so cruel to all of us when it took you away from us, but I am also grateful for how incredibly kind it was to us when it brought the two of you into our lives. And that is what today is all about.
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.
I love you, my precious baby. I remain as brokenhearted as ever that you are not here with us, especially on this, your third birthday. Happy Birthday, my sweet Hudson.