Your dad and I moved your ashes into our bedroom today. With tears in our eyes, we took you off the shelf in your room and put you on the shelf in ours. It was time. We needed you closer.
I gave you a hug. My cheek on the cold, metal urn was awkward and unsatisfying – not like a hug should be, not like love should be. I wanted a real hug – warm and tight.
Last night, at your cousin’s third birthday party, Bryson went to give me a hug and he came at me so hard he bashed his head into my teeth. It made a loud crack and everyone thought he broke my nose. We were fine though. After a few tears, Bryson came up to me and said, “Let’s try that again.”
I wished deep in my heart that it was you who jumped at me like that – with all your strength and no sense of restraint. That is the kind of awkward hug I would like from you.
But your body is ashes in an urn. There will be no more hugs and no more birthdays in this life.
And that is why I need to write you this letter. A lot has changed in our relationship. Ha! What a hilarious statement. Brody, things are just not at all how I told you they would be. I’m sorry. We did our very best for you and that was not enough.
Going forward, I need to tell you a few things that your dad and I have decided. I think you might appreciate knowing how we want things to be in our new reality. I can’t give you routine and predictability the way I’d planned, but I’m going to do my best.
First, I’m sorry that we didn’t talk about you at Liam’s party yesterday. We don’t know what to say, I think. No one wants to forget you, but we are still figuring it out. Our wounds aren’t scars yet, and sometimes remembering you makes us bleed.
Still, your dad and I agree that we want everyone to know that they can talk about you as much as they want and whenever they want. We can share stories or thoughts of you whenever they come to us. We will not fear our memories; they are all gifts.
At Christmas, we want to include the photo we have of you in front of the Christmas tree. It shows you happy and alive and we want to remember you that way. You only had one Christmas at home and that photo helps me see that it was a good one. Maybe we will put it on a chair or on the wall, we don’t know, but I don’t ever want to celebrate Christmas without also celebrating you.
We will also celebrate your birthday every year. There will be angel food cake with seven-minute frosting, fruit, and people who love you. We will come together to watch home videos and look at the stunning photo album we are going to make. We won’t have presents, but we will remember the gift you are to us.
Mommy also plans to get a tattoo. Until then, I will keep wearing the jewellery given to me to help keep you close. I hope these symbols spark questions so I can tell people about you, how I carry you in my heart. I hope I can share with others without making them uncomfortable or sad. I know you would prefer to be a source of joy and I will always honour that as best I can.
Finally, my dear son, what I desperately need to tell you, is that we are going to be okay. We’ve decided. We will miss you – always – we will never be glad this happened, not even a little bit. But we will be full, whole and happy.
I’m having such a hard time with this Brody. I need to explain it to you to help me understand.
I know this is possible now. I believed it before, but now I know. Something has changed inside of me.
Ever since you died, or at least since the initial shock subsided, I have been searching franticly for you. My brain has been doing things I don’t understand, trying to process how you are no longer a daily part of my life. I’ve never experienced anything similar to this. I’ve never known a consuming, exhausting grief before losing you. But I woke up one morning and I wasn’t looking for you anymore.
I felt relief and fear. I felt angry that this new calm, the possibility of acceptance, came so unexpectedly, without my consent. How could something so deep within me actually be so far outside of my control? But feelings are often like that. That is why they are a fool’s compass.
Now that this consuming, frantic phase of grief is waning, I realize that I get to choose where I go next.
Brody, I don’t enjoy being dramatic, but this is an exceptional situation and I need to tell you that I would burn the house down to bring you back. I would cry every day non-stop if it would bring you back. I would relive my life if it meant that when I got to your birthday you would be born healthy. I need you to know that I would do that for you. Because I don’t want to you to feel like I don’t love you or miss you when you see me happy down here. I’m afraid of that. Other people might think that, I can live with that, but you never can.
I’m quite certain your dad feels the same way. You know he adores you. From the moment you came home, I don’t remember him ever resenting that you had a disease, or ever being angry at God. He just had so much love for you.
Brody, it is bitterly painful accepting that you’re gone from us. I have never had to do anything so unfair. I have to give myself permission to be happy even though you died. I’m having such a hard time with that.
I was reading on the deck the other night, and I read about Viktor Frankl. This man is a holocaust survivor who lost his wife and multiple family members while witnessing the worst displays of inhumanity. Instead of losing hope, he chose to feed the good wolf and be a source of light in the midst of utter darkness.
Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” You should find him, Brody. I expect he’s where you are. Please tell him that your mom says thank you.
Because when I read about Frankl, I felt a new freedom to choose a positive outlook despite our family’s great loss. If Frankl could endure the holocaust with grace and joy, then surly I can choose gratitude even in the face of this immense disappointment.
Brody, I promised you that I would always have faith for you. I promised you that good things would come out of the bad. I meant for things to be different, my son. I meant for you to speak at my funeral. But though we are separated now, in such a profound and painful way, I believe we can focus on the love and memories that still connect us. And we can hold onto the hope that there will be birthdays, one day, and I will hug you again – warm and tight.
Love always and always and always,