Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Happy Seventh Birthday, Sweet Hudson

My dearest girl,

I don’t want to write this letter, sweet one. I read back over the letters I’ve written you on each of your birthdays since you died, and I have no idea how I came up with so many lovely words to say to you. Because today, I feel bereft. I feel grumpy and angry and so sad. In the early years after you died (how unbelievable and awful that you have been gone so long that there are now “early years”), my dread of these days—anniversaries and birthdays and other special days—was always worse than the days themselves. But as time as passed, I find more and more that the opposite is true. In the beginning, when there was nothing but your absence, always, all the time, the special days were really no different than the others—like every other day, they were hard and sad. If anything, those days may have even been a little bit easier, because even though they were hard and sad, we would always hear from lots of friends and special people who were remembering you on those days. But as time has gone on, and our lives have continued to grow bigger around your absence, we still feel it every day—every moment—but I think we feel it even more on those days, like your birthday, when you are supposed to be front and center. Earlier today, I was baking with your brother and sister, and all I could think about was how wrong it all was, how your brother and sister should have been at school, how I should have been putting the final touches on cupcakes to bring your first grade class to celebrate your birthday.

Your first grade class. I know I say every year that the age you should have reached seems so big, so grown, but goodness, Hudson. Seven? First grade? I’ve enjoyed looking at so many of your baby pictures over the last few days, and I can’t believe how much time has passed. I guess in some ways, this is similar to what every parent experiences looking at pictures of their children as babies, wondering how they could ever have been so small. And yet, of course, I don’t have you here with me as evidence of how much you have grown. You’re still the small, precious person I last saw lying on that bed in the hospital, finally undisturbed by so many wires and tubes and gadgets, no longer swollen from fluids and medication, looking as though you were simply sleeping peacefully. But even though you are not here for me to mark your height on the wall, I still feel the passage of time so keenly, how fast it all goes. It still feels like you were just here. It seems impossible that we are coming on six years since we last saw you. How can that be?

It boggles my mind to think of the kinds of conversations we’d be having now. Even at four-and-a-half, Jackson is constantly challenging me with his curiosity and incisive questions and thoughts. I can only imagine what it would be like to talk with you now. If your younger siblings are any indication of the kind of person you would be, I imagine talking with you would be utterly delightful.

It’s still too easy to idealize you now that you are gone. It’s too easy to extrapolate from your joyful, intelligent, wise-seeming personality as a toddler a notion of a young girl, not all that far from being a tween, really, who is passionate and compassionate, thoughtful and empathetic, hilarious and happy, and whip-smart. I like to think that your brother and sister carry so many of the best parts of you in them—I see so many of these traits in both of them every day.

As ever, I am heartbroken that the three of you are not here together to share what I imagine would be a sweet sibling relationship, at least for now. Your brother and sister love each other dearly, and they fight with each other with enthusiasm equal to their love. I’m sure it would have been the same with you. I picture you reading books to your voracious learner of a little brother, him peppering you with questions just like he does us, you responding half with actual facts and half with stuff you just made up on the spot, and then you finally telling him to leave you alone. And I picture you treating Ada as your own little baby, at least until she starts annoying you by constantly wanting to be within six inches of your body, which I’m absolutely certain she would. She would adore you, Hudson. I find I picture you here with us now more than I ever have before, which also means I feel your absence now more than ever before. And I can’t stand it.

As always, I do still take great comfort in all the lovely and fitting ways that people remember you on your birthday. This year, people donated books and toys and clothing to kids who need them; they donated money to so many causes that would have pleased you, including animal shelters, refugees in Europe who are trying to keep their babies safe, the children’s hospital that tried so hard to keep you here with us, and of course, our beloved St. Ann’s. When I think of all the Hudson joy and love being sent out into the world on your birthday, I am so grateful and so proud of you.

We did something a little different at home this year. When I asked your brother what he wanted to do to celebrate your birthday, he said he wanted to make a “love cake” because we miss you. So we baked you a love cake, a heart-shaped chocolate cake complete with Carolina blue frosting (Jackson’s idea) and snowflakes (also his idea). But his idea to make a love cake gave me an idea about our One Good Thing this year. As your brother gets older, I’ve been trying to think of ways to involve him more actively in our One Good Thing, to try and help him understand why we are doing what we are doing—to honor you by brightening the lives of other people, especially those who could really use some Hudson love and joy. So I thought we should make “love cookies” and stuff them into baggies with some cash and give them to the folks we see so often on our errands standing on the corners asking for help. And that’s what we did. And I can only hope that we are beginning to instill a real spirit of giving into your brother and sister—Jackson really enjoyed handing the bags of cookies out, and at one point, he and Ada even started fighting over who should get to do it. A fight over who gets to give? That’s one sibling fight I can tolerate. And I’m grateful to you always, sweet girl, for being our inspiration and our light as we walk this path without you.

As the Christmas season gets into full swing, I am missing you more than ever, Hudson. I’ll just keep carrying on conversations with you in my mind, imagining your seven-year-old gangly legs and stringy hair and exuberant smile. I wish so much that I could wrap you in my arms, tuck those long legs over mine, bury my nose into that hair, and whisper into your ear how very much I love you. I am so sorry that we’ll never have that. It’s all so very wrong. I love you, my dearest girl.

Happy Birthday.




  1. A beautiful letter to a beautiful little girl. Thank you for continuing to share her with us.

  2. Yes. Yes. The burying your nose into her hair. That scent of her. It is amazing how one can bear this, isn't it? But you are and she is too as she might also wish to burrow into your shoulder again.

  3. Oof. Clicking on this blog again and seeing the grass and dandelions takes me back to the "early days" too, when none of us could believe it, when all of us sat behind our computers biting our hands with the obscenity of how unfair her leaving was. Is.

    That you continue to grieve but balance (if it's possible) that grief with a mission of teaching Hudson's siblings what it means to give with purpose, to empathize in earnest, even with hurt they can't quite understand (like what it means to you and Ed to celebrate Hudson's birthday in comparison to what it means to them), it is so truly beautiful. Authentic and beautiful. Why do the realest of days have to be the hardest? Love to you, to all of you. Thank you for letting us all bear witness.

  4. It's all so wrong, so sad. You were robbed. And I weep in solidarity with you.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful piece, Mandy, and for your courage in keeping Hudson alive for Jackson and Ada as well as the rest of her appreciators!

  6. I wait for this letter every year and make sure I'm not in the company of others when I read it. What a beautiful and extraordinary testimony you have of love for your girl and her siblings. You all are in my prayers.

  7. I wait for this letter every year and make sure I'm not in the company of others when I read it. What a beautiful and extraordinary testimony you have of love for your girl and her siblings. You all are in my prayers.

  8. Thinking of your sweet Hudson. We're nearly five years out now and it is always so shocking to see these numbers roll on. Seven is huge.

    Sending you love. <3