Can you hear me?
On your birthday tomorrow we will be grieving the loss of yet another milestone that we don’t get to experience with you. You would be seventeen. You would have begged us to let you get your driving permit soon after you turned sixteen, and would probably be ready to take the test to get your license if you didn’t have it already. You’d been looking forward to driving since you were twelve or thirteen and trouncing everyone in Mario Kart.
Your friends are juniors in high school. They’re starting to write college essays, go on college visits, and narrow down their post-high school plans. It’s wrong that you don’t get to have those experiences, too—although your dad and I always said that you’d probably end up living in our basement until you were 30. What I wouldn't give.
I recently opened the birthday present that Grandmom and Granddad sent for you for your 15th birthday. You never got to open it. We stashed it behind the chair in our bedroom, ready to pull it out on your birthday. It was a sweater. You would have politely thanked them for the sweater--and you would have probably enjoyed wearing it, too. You were often cold, and you liked wearing layers to keep your skinny self warm.
They had also sent a Beatles souvenir book from the Beatles store in London, which they had recently visited. You would have pored over it, reciting facts about the Fab Four to anyone within earshot, and jotting down catalog numbers for your Christmas wish list: an All You Need is Love watch, a
collection of plush band members, or maybe
the complete book of sheet music for guitar including all 203 Beatles songs.
Ah, darling. I miss you. I hate that I can't know what you would be becoming, and see what new interests you would be developing, and how you would be changing as you grew closer to becoming a man. I want to make new memories with you, finish watching K-Pax with you, plan your new session of home school classes.
I miss talking to you, seeing you, touching you. You would hug me, hug all of us, SO OFTEN, like you could not get enough physical contact from the people you loved.
Often I stand next to the table that holds your pictures, your poem, cards, and mementos. I re-read your poem, I look at the photographs of you and C. Peevie and M. Peevie, and I shake my head because it's not right that you are not here. It’s not right that we’re celebrating our own birthdays and watching each holiday come and go and taking family vacations without you.
M. Peevie just turned fourteen. You were fourteen when you left us--not quite fifteen, really. It's weird and impossible to get my mind around the fact that she has reached the same age as you, and in a short year will surpass your chronological age. This aspect of losing you,
like many others, is confusing and surreal.
I did not know the work of mourningIs like carrying a bag of cementUp a mountain at nightThe mountaintop is not in sightBecause there is no mountaintopPoor Sisyphus griefI did not know I would struggleThrough a ragged underbrushWithout an upward path...Look closely and you will seeAlmost everyone carrying bagsOf cement on their shouldersThat’s why it takes courageTo get out of bed in the morningAnd climb into the day.
― Edward Hirsch, Gabriel: A Poem
The answer is yes. Some days, still, you're all I can think about, talk about, care about. Until we meet in eternity, darling boy, I hold you in my heart.