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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Shorts For You, A Cozy Sweater For Me, and a Pocket Full of Rocks for Us

September 30, 2020

My sweet boy,

Fall has arrived. It surprises me every year how the first, tiny hints of yellow leaves in late August turn into a splendor of yellow in just a few short weeks. How the mornings go from warm, doors-wide-open and coffee outside on the deck to cool, brisk mornings, cozy sweaters and coffee in front of the fireplace. Aahhh… but I do love this transition. And so, this week I traded my shorts and sleeveless tops for cozy sweaters and warm socks all the while knowing that you’re still wearing shorts up there.

I am sitting this early, fall morning in front of the fireplace with a big cup of coffee, our big brown dog at my feet reminiscing over memories of you and your brothers and how you guys would hold onto summer for as long as you could. Succumbing to fall didn’t happen until it snowed, it seemed. I smile remembering how as September waned and the mornings turned cool you and your brothers would defy wearing pants – always deferring to shorts. Some of those mornings were darn cold. Most days the grass would be white with frost as you’d bolt out the front door to catch the school bus. Hoodies were the thing, of course, and at least you guys would put those on. I remember watching from the front window as you waited for the bus; your skinny, spindly legs shaking, your hands tucked in the front pocket of your hoodie, shoulders up to your ears, looking like a turtle with your overstuffed backpack slung on your back. I remember suggesting many a morning that wearing pants might be a good option, but not until water puddles turned to ice and stayed frozen would you and your brothers succumb to that mom tip (and for what its worth, a natural consequence was always a better convincing tool in the ‘ole parenting handbook ). Packing away those summer shorts was a sad day in our house. Stretching out summer for as long as possible was the norm and looking back on my own childhood it was the very same.

When you’d return home from school your backpack was even more stuffed because the hoodie that kept you from freezing in the morning was now sort of, somewhat, portions of it anyway, tucked into your backpack. I recall the thunk of your backpack hitting the floor at the front door because of the weight of all it held… a textbook or two, your agenda, your lunchbox, a gym strip (if you hadn’t forgot it), your pencil box and homework (if you hadn’t forgot it), your iPod and some miscellaneous odds and ends… remember the yo-yo stage and the coveted binder of Pokémon cards and hockey cards? I smile recalling how you’d barely set foot inside the door to shed your pack and yell, “Mom, I’m home!” only to turn around and run back out the door because playing outside was the best part of your day. Gosh, I loved that so much.

And, then there were all the pockets full of rocks. I remember, (most times with an eye roll) how I’d routinely check all your pockets before I put a load of laundry into the washing machine. There is something unnerving about hearing rocks roll around in the washer… and there were many that went undetected… which is why I had to check your pockets. A pocket full of rocks seemed to be a regular occurrence in our family… your brothers, too, loved rocks and it is no secret that I love them too. I frequently return with a rock or two and sometimes a pocket full (I take back all the eye roll). I guess the apples didn’t fall far from the proverbial tree.

You and your pals, Brent and Jordan

I think loving the fall season in all it’s splendor might be something one acquires a love for as one gets older. It is certainly true for me. Saying goodbye to summer seems a bit easier now as the furnace kicks in. So, hello fall, I’m ready for you. Cozy sweater and all. In a bit, I’ll head out for a walk with Finn and undoubtedly I’ll return with a rock or two or a pocket full. I’m pretty sure, Willy, that you’ll help me find the best ones.

I love you, sweet one. More than a bus and more than a cozy sweater for me, shorts for you and a pocket full of rocks for us.


You and me finding rocks in Fernie.

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