Sometimes one person can be missing and the whole world feels empty

~ anonymous ~

JoniBouchard.jpgWelcome to my Love Letters to Will. I am the mother of three boys; two who run and one who soars. Tragically, on the long weekend in May 2011, I lost my youngest son, Will, at the age of 12 1/2. Losing Will has changed me and life as I knew it forever. To imagine is one thing, but to have to live it is another.

In the first year, I wrote Will a daily love letter. I talked to him everyday for 12½ years and I wasn’t about to stop. I couldn’t stop. This daily ritual helped me to, quite literally, survive. I looked forward to some time each day to be with him, to talk to him, to write to him, to imagine that he was sitting with me talking like we used to.

I still write to Will, though not every day. Sometimes I sit in my comfy chair, sometimes I lay in his bed propped up against his pillows like when we used to read together before his bedtime. I’ve taken my laptop down to the river and sat on the banks, written to him while I waited in a waiting room or an office; I’ve written to him as I sat in the passenger seat on our way to Fernie, woken in the early morning before the busyness of the day to write to him, and sometimes made it the last thing I did before I climbed into my own bed. It doesn’t matter where I am or what time it is… I look forward to my quiet time with Will and to writing him a letter.

I’ll need to explain a couple of things that won’t make any sense if you have no background of my relationship with Will. First, Will had many nicknames and I often refer to him in my letters as Willy (obvious), and the WillBilly (I’m not even sure how and when that started, but we called him that often), and “Little Mr. Blue Sky” (after his favourite song, Mr. Blue Sky by ELO). Secondly, for as long as I can remember, Will and I ended each day with a tuck in and the words “love you like a bus”. I know it doesn’t make sense, but when he was little, buses were huge in his world and he believed that you could never love anyone or anything bigger than a bus. And so, this phrase evolved and we used it always. So when I end a letter with that phrase which Will and I sometimes shortened to “lulab” (love u like a bus) you’ll get what I mean.

If you, too,  are a mom who is living the unimaginable loss of a child I hope that through sharing my Love Letters to Will you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  You  might find parallels in your own journey and are looking for a way to continue a relationship with your child, even though it is not the physical one that we on earth only know.  Thank you for allowing me to share my Will with you in this way.

To those of you who have your children I hope that my Love Letters to Will will remind you that Motherhood is a labour of love and that your children are gifts.  There are days when mothering is difficult, when we sometimes wish away the hard parts, but here is what I know for sure. Nothing will ever be as difficult as losing them.

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A Little School FULL of WillPower

Will playing basketball. Grade 7December 16, 2017

Dear Willy,

Yesterday morning Dad and I attended an assembly at Banded Peak School. They wanted to recognize us and your Foundation for funding the school with new basketball uniforms. I have to tell you, Will, that WillPower and the Power of Will are alive and well there and we just couldn’t have been more proud! The video of all the kids explaining what WillPower means to them and seeing all the basketball kids donning the new jerseys with WillPower printed on the back was emotionally moving. I will always remember it and suffice it to say it was hard to hold it together; to keep our tears from spilling wasn’t easy. Last week, one of your teachers, Mr C., asked if I would talk at the assembly about you and what you stood for…. how could the proudest Mom in the land say, “no” to that?

I wanted to share my words with you (even though I know you were there in the gym yesterday) but also wanted to record them somewhere where they could be read and remembered again by you and me and all who know and miss you. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of just how big your little light is.

I love you, Willy. Like a bus full of new basketball uniforms and WillPower and big, proud mama love.


Here’s what I had to say about you…

Hello and thank you.

I am Will’s Mom and this is Will’s Dad, Murray. Most of you know me as Mrs. Bouchard, but this morning I am here wearing my proudest hat… and that is as Will’s Mom. Will’s Dad and I are honoured to be here this morning on behalf of Will, but also on behalf of the Will Bouchard Memorial Foundation.

This community and this school are important to us for many reasons. We have lived and raised our 3 boys in this little piece of paradise over the last 22 years. Our boys — Justin, Ben and Will grew up in this community and in this school and each of their faces can be seen in the school photos that line the hallways here.

We are here because of our youngest son, Will. Mr. Churchill was one of Will’s teachers and he asked me to share a little bit about who Will was and what he was about.

Will was in grade 7 when our “worst day ever” happened. We lost him in a tragic accident in May 2011 and from that day forward this community and this school rallied together to help us survive.

We are lucky to live where we do and to have had a village to help us cope with our loss. Honestly, it is unlike any community we have ever known. Will loved this community and this school. It was more than a place to learn… it was his play place too. Just like it is for all of you.

Will was an active boy — a boy who loved to run, to jump, to play and to hang upside down. His two favourite places here were in the gym and on the playground. It’s important to note that he also liked to hang out in the band room with Mrs Fisher and the bari sax. Will loved sports. He played every school sport, played hockey in both Bragg Creek and Springbank, and was a member of the freestyle ski team in Fernie.

Will couldn’t sit still and he was also pretty chatty. Sometimes his chattiness coupled with his inability to sit still got him into a bit of trouble in the classroom as you can imagine. …Perhaps some of you are like this too. All this aside, it is here in the gym where he was happiest and where his light shone the brightest. Not only because he loved phys ed and sports but also because he was a boy who loved his friends and his peers… and the gym was and is a place to gather… just like now.

After losing Will the school asked us if they could hang his sports jersey here in the gym as a remembrance but also as a reminder of what Will stood for. Of course, we were honoured beyond words and to this day I cannot even tell you what it means to me to look up at that #8 jersey. It was his favourite number and any time he could choose which number to wear it always had an 8 in it.

So, when you look at that jersey up thereand you see the word WillPower… what does it mean? Well… it means two things and Will encompassed both. WillPower means to persevere, to always keep trying and to not give up. That’s what the dictionary would say and when it came to school and, in particular, sports, Will demonstrated WillPower always.

But it also has another meaning. If you switch the words around you get The Power of Will. You see, Will had this special power, this intuition, for knowing when people were sad or unhappy and he made it his mission to undo that and to make people happy. He was like the sad police. He couldn’t stand it when we or his friends or his peers were sad.

The cool thing is that we all have this power. We all, each of you, have the power to make someone’s day better. We, you, all of us, can have the Power of Will. And each time you’re in this gym and you see that jersey, that #8, and that word, WillPower let that be a reminder to never give up, to try harder, to persevere, but also to make someone’s day better, to make a sad person happy, to turn a frown upside down, and to be kind. In every facet of your life, kindness is really all that matters.

To those of you who will wear these new basketball uniforms now and in the coming years please know how honoured we are on behalf of ours son and the Will Bouchard Memorial Foundation to have provided them to this school — to this place he loved, to his village.

On the back of each jersey is the word WillPower”. The word is not large or overbearing, but small and intentional. Your vice principal last year, Mrs. Magee, was instrumental in getting these new uniforms and she collaborated with us in their design. When she suggested that the word WillPower be included on them we were very touched.

When you have the opportunityto represent Banded Peak through a school sport we hope that WillPower will guide your actions and the way you play and treat others. And here at school when you’re in the gym with your class and you see Wills jersey up there know he’s watching and cheering you on and in so doing is reminding you that you too have the power to make everyone around you a better person. Will was all about that. And that makes us very proud.

We miss Will beyond words. We always will.

All we ask, all anyone could ever ask is that you carry your own WillPower and the Power of Will that you all possess in your hearts and that you strive every day to make others happy. Be kind. Have fun. Be your best self.

He would love that more than anything.

Thank you.

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