Dear Ryan,

I thought this birthday would be easier; that I would be able to look back at our memories with a bittersweetness. I foolishly thought as we approached 2 years, that time would be gentler on us and the loss would be less of a burden to bear. Not true. I find as the years pass, it feels as difficult as the first text of February 17, 2018. Perhaps just as difficult is that people around us think that time will ease our pains.
We didn’t know any better.

But my sweet boy, it is your birthday so I shall not honour you with fallen tears.

We are doing okay. Dad wakes each morning with more grey hairs than the night before. He doesn’t accuse me of giving them to him but you and I know better. He still tries to call them blonde. His laughter is a balm to soothe most days. Remember the videos you use to take of him? I hope you can hear his chuckles wherever you find yourself.

The girls are growing so beautifully. Jordyn is working hard at university. You would be incredibly proud of how diligent she is. All those years of teasing, she might actually leap ahead of you in schooling. Ironic no? Her kindness grows each day as well. And well.. we are managing her hangry spells.
Julianna.. what can I possibly say about her, that would surprise you? Her quick wit rivals yours and I find myself constantly on my toes to keep up. That twinkle in her eyes reminds me so much of you, it’s eerie.
They are coping well. Sometimes I think Dad and I did such a great job of making whatever “this” is normal, there is no frame of reference of grief for them.

I saw most of your friends a couple of weeks ago. We were at Max’s hockey game and they all came to show support. There are not too many times that I can say with absolute certainty that I know where you would be at that given moment. But that night I did. You would have been surrounded by these men. I swear I can see your smile as you stand there.

Max is still with us. Despite all of our flaws, he seems to found his home with us . Out of all of you, he is so much like dad. Quiet and calm with endless patience. I know you are laughing, thinking with Jordyn, he might have to be. But truthfully they are good together. A yin and a yang. He is following in dad’s footsteps and becoming a carpenter. He is a lovely addition, my love as you know, not a replacement.

Perhaps the real grief for us comes from watching Oscar. It is like he waits every day hoping for a miracle. We all do. Dad is taking good care of him though. Your name of “monkeyboy” has stuck. Stay tuned for his “merch” to appear on dog shelves everywhere. How I wish that you would burst through that door one more time, chasing Oscar around the room, disrupting everyone. I promise I won’t get mad this time.

As for me… well I’m doing okay. I’m your mom, so I get a pass if I cry every day. My love for you is as wide as all the oceans pieced together, so shall my grief be.

I want you to know how much you have given me. How much I have grown. The changes that you have inspired in me continue to raise me higher than I ever thought possible. But I mourn. There is something infinitely sad about becoming the person you were meant to become at the expense of someone you love. I wish there was another way.

I wish you had more time.

Happy 23rd birthday, my handsome baby boy.

I love you forever.