My dearest, sweetest girl,
Happy birthday, my dear one. Today you would be five. Five years old. Five years. It’s the fourth birthday we have spent without you, and we have never missed you more. If I have said on each birthday before that it felt like such a big-kid age, none has felt more so than this one. We see photos of all of your friends from when you were little, and we barely recognize them anymore, so big and kid-like they have grown, all arms and legs, no more little baby chub on their cheeks. I wish I could see you at five. I wish I could hear you at five. I wish I could hug and kiss you at five. I wish I could know you at five.
Our lives tumble along, precious girl—somehow the wide world remains unfazed by your absence even as our own little piece feels it so keenly. Your little brother Jackson turned two in May. Although we talk about you all the time, he still doesn’t yet understand who you are. He knows your face and your name, and when prompted, he knows to say that you are his big sister, but he doesn’t yet comprehend what it means for him to have a sister who is not here. When we told him it was your birthday today, he got very excited—he knows birthdays are fun—and kept saying, “Wanna go to Hudson’s birthday?” and “Wanna go to Hudson’s house?” He doesn’t yet have a concept of the fact that he doesn’t actually know you in real life. But what do I know? Perhaps he knows way more than I realize and knows exactly who you are. Perhaps he’s known you for longer than I could imagine. I certainly like to think so. I think over the course of the next year, he will begin to understand more and ask more of the hard questions that I don’t even have an answer to. Where are you? (I don’t know.) Why did you die? (I don’t know.) Why aren’t you with us? (I don’t know.) Can you still see us and hear us? (Oh, I hope so.) Can we still see you and hear you? (I like to think so, if we look and listen very hard.) I only hope that when these questions come, I will find a way to answer them that helps him feel close to you, that helps him feel like you are right there with him all the time, that you are his big sister every step of the way, even though you can’t walk right beside him. I have a feeling you will help me with that when the time comes, just like you have helped me with so many other things in the past five years.
And Hudson, oh, Hudson. Your baby sister Ada was born in August, and she, too, looks just like you and Jackson but in her own little way. Right now, at about three-and-a-half months, she looks much like you did when you were about a month old. I can’t wait to tell her all about you one day. But oh, how sad for her I am that she will never get to know her big sister in life. She will need you so much, and I am so sorry that she will only get to have you in spirit, in her heart. She deserves to have you right here with her, bossing her around, locking her out of your room, hugging her tight while she cries on your shoulder, screaming at her to get out of the bathroom, whispering secrets that only sisters can share. She will need you, and I wish so much that she could have you. I promise you that I will do my very best to make sure she, too, knows that you are always there with her and for her, even when you can’t be right beside her.
So many people celebrated you today. All your friends from our old home in D.C., where you were born and died, got together today at your bench at the Arboretum to celebrate your birthday. Their moms and dads posted pictures and videos of them eating cupcakes and wishing you happy birthday. It looked like a great party—the only thing missing was you. Like we have in years past, we spent our day together, remembering and loving you in a very special way, by sharing pieces of your spirit with the world. We donated some doggie toys to a few different places that take care of animals. We took a bunch of toys and books to the Ronald McDonald house. On the way in, we saw a little statue of an angel holding a turtle. Jackson handed the toys to the weekend manager and told her that they were for your birthday. I told her your story, and she told me that her older brother had also died before she was born, and that her life was different because of it. That made me sad and glad all at the same time, for although my heart is as broken as ever that you are not with us, the idea that your absence will make all our lives different, in a good way, brings me so much comfort. It is the only thing that does, for what I want more than anything is for your spirit to keep on working its magic, in big and small ways, forever.
We did these little One Good Things, but somehow they didn’t feel quite right—not necessarily that they are not enough, not that they are not “good” enough, but just not quite right anymore. I’m going to keep thinking about new ways to honor the amazing little person you were in the years to come. Your little brother has already started one new tradition for your birthday. He overheard me mention to your daddy that your old friends had celebrated at your bench with cupcakes, and he said, “Want some cupcakes?” How could I refuse? So from now on, we will add birthday cupcakes to our annual celebration of your birthday. I’m sure as your brother and sister get older, they’ll have even better ideas of how we can remember you and honor your life on each first day of December—kids’ hearts are just the right size for those kinds of things.
I miss you more than ever, sweet girl. As I’ve known ever since you died, watching your younger siblings grow and change and flourish only makes ever more evident what we lost when we lost you. We spent a good portion of Thanksgiving weekend decorating the house for Christmas and playing Christmas music. Your brother is already eagerly crooning, “Do you hear what I hear?” and “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose” and snippets of so many others of my favorite Christmas songs. And when your dad plugged in the first string of lights to test them before hanging them outside, Jackson’s face lit up with a huge grin. He has already caught my love of Christmas, and while I am so happy to share it with him, I am so very sad that I’ll never get to share it with you, or hear you sing, or see your shiny smile in the glow of a string of Christmas lights. But One Good Thing is that your face, your smile, your spirit, your heart—YOU—are alive in your little brother and sister. I can see you in Jackson and Ada in so many ways, and I am so grateful.
We will spend the rest of our lives keeping you alive in us, sweet Hudson. As your mother, it is the most important job I will ever have, and next to being able to mother you in life, it is the one I will cherish most dearly.
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 fifth birthday, my dear girl. I am going to eat my cupcake for you now. I love you and miss you, always.