My dear Heather,
Tonight I sit just as I have every night as August 30th turns into August 31st to write your birthday letter. I have done this since you were six years old. I do it again this year even though you do not walk this earth with me any longer. Last year you didn’t want to celebrate your birthday. You had had chemo and were not feeling well. You were bloated from the drugs and did not want photos taken of you. You said we would celebrate next year. Well now it is next year, and we are not celebrating your birthday. Instead so many people are missing you and wondering why you had to leave us. I know I wonder that every moment of every day.
I have sat many times to write about the last year with you and to write about your death on March 21, 2012. I have not been able to do it. It would make it more real on so many levels even though I know nothing can make it more real than what it is. You are not here. I still haven’t begun to learn to live without you and I don’t think I ever will. I haven’t learned to live without your brother and Joseph has been gone for seven years now.
At your memorial service in Vermont I spoke about how you were an answer to a prayer. I had asked the Creator for proof that love really did exist. You were the answer the Creator sent to me. From the first moment I held you until the last moment you have been the answer of love to me. I will never forget the moment of your first breath. I will never forget the moment of your last breath. The moments in between your first and last breaths were everything to me.
You didn’t like having to have me take care of so much in your life this past year. I understand it on many levels but on many others it also hurts so much to know how much you resented having to have me be so intricately woven into your life. We had so many talks about that very thing. You know I stood back and gave as much space as humanly possible. When it became too hard to sit waiting for you to say I could come over, and not just to take care of the younger ones but to spend time with you I would say to you, ” Enough. Don’t push me away.” You would smile and we would talk some more. I would ask you if it was one of your children going through this would you stay away? Would you ever leave their side? You would smile, look at me and tell me there would be no way you would ever leave their side. So I would ask you then to please stop expecting me to stay away as much as you wanted me to. I know you didn’t like having to have me there doing as much as I did or doing as much for you as I had to do, but it took everything you had to deal with the cancer and the treatments. Your energy was to go for you and for you to use for things that were important that I could not do ~ your special moments with your children.
You didn’t want people to know how much you were not able to do. Sometimes you were telling people how you were driving here and there. How you were doing this and doing that. It wasn’t true. You were in bed. Once again I did and do understand why you did that. But sometimes it hurt then and sometimes it hurts now. I still wake up every morning and before getting out of bed I look at my cell phone to see if you had texted or called during the night and I didn’t hear your text or call. And then I remember. I remember you are gone. And I am shattered all over again.
You didn’t like your last birthday letter because unfortunately it addressed the journey of cancer and what lay ahead for you, for all of us. You didn’t like your last birthday letter because unlike some other years there wasn’t a lot of positive and ‘good’ things to write about. Last years letter wasn’t a journey into the past writing about special moments with you through the young years of your life. It wasn’t about sharing special memories. I spoke of the present and it spoke of how much I had faith in you and your strong determination. It spoke of my belief that if anyone could beat the cancer that invaded you, you would do it. You told me you didn’t like your birthday letter because it brought up cancer and you hated the cancer. I hated it too. I hated what it was doing to you. And I hate what it did to you. I have hated the many changes in my life and in the lives of your children created by that horrible disease taking you from us. We all have to find some way to live without you. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know if I ever will.
In the time from your last birthday letter to this one it wasn’t all painful. We had some good laughs. You would push and dig down deep in order to be as much a part of life as you could be. You pulled together the Anti-Prom night and created such a magical night for so many. We all had so much fun that night! You made sure you got out of bed, dressed so beautifully and went to special events at your childrens’ school because it mattered to you and to them. You went with your daughter and friends to a concert and you looked as adorable as all the rest of them and you had such a great time. And so did your daughter and her friends. You created a magical time with you and them. You pushed yourself and took your youngest son to his first concert and he had a wonderful night with you. When your were in so much pain, when just lying not moving hurt so much, you got out of bed and made the special birthday snack for your little one to take to school on her birthday. I could have done it for you but it was important to you that you made it for her. It was something you always did for your children and something you wanted to do for her. It meant a lot to her that her Mommy made her birthday snack. We talked a lot about things like that. We talked a lot about the things a Mom can do for her children when it seems impossible to do but we do it as Moms because those things are important. I know leaving your children was the hardest thing you had ever had to do. I know watching you exhale your last breath was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I wish you were here to tell me how to live without you. You always had great advice for everyone. Like so many of us you didn’t always apply the advice you would give to others to your own self. I wonder why it is we do that?
Cancer changed your looks so much. I still loved looking at you. It was painful to see how painful it was for you to deal with how much you physically changed. Do you remember some of the talks we would have about these things in the late hours of the night? You would get so upset when anyone told you they still saw you as beautiful! It didn’t matter because you became such a stranger to your self in the mirror. Those of us who love you so much saw how the disease and treatment changed your looks, but we were still able to see you. I know you didn’t see you and it broke my heart to see how much that upset you. If it was me who changed that much and that quickly I know it would have been very difficult to see myself any differently than how you saw your self. You mourned for your self even though you were still here. I really did get it Heather. I really did. I saw the phyical changes but I also saw your beautiful will and Spirit inside you, fighting and pushing to do more and to heal. I saw your love push you and give you strength to fight time after time after time.
For the past thirty-four minutes it has been August 31st and it is the first time in forty-two years that I will not get to hear your voice. It is the first time in forty-two years that I can not tell you in person or call you on the phone and say, ” Happy birthday Heather Anne!” It is the first time in forty-two years that it is the birthday of my first born child, my gift from the Creator, my joy, my laughter, my wise Moses, my funny clown,my child of the fairies, my stubborn, willful and independent child and one of the most precious, vital Souls ever to grace this world and my child of the biggest, most loving heart ever found in one person ~ and you aren’t here. And my life and the world is forever changed by your absence.
Happy birthday my dear and precious child. I hope you are with your brother today and the two of you do something magical and wonderful. I love you with all I am….Love forever and always, Mom