Sixteen Candles on an Angel Food Cake

Will's Third Birthday

Will’s Third Birthday

October 14, 2014,




Happy Heavenly Birthday Will,


Upon waking this morning and with you ever present in my mind, the first words out of my mouth as I looked out my bedroom window and up to the sky were my birthday wishes for you. Today is your 16th birthday and I am saving today just for you.


So much has happened in a week, since my last letter. It was so great to have Ben home from University for Thanksgiving; gosh, I miss him (his mess, not so much) and I was grateful for having both Justin and Ben at the table for our turkey dinner on Sunday. You were there too, in the middle of the four of us lighting up our table by candlelight.


Unfortunately, Thanksgiving was far from the minds of Nana and my Uncle and cousins and family as they are in the midst of missing their beautiful sister, wife, mom and grandmother. Auntie Barb succumbed to her battle with cancer early on Saturday morning and has left all of us with all of those questions that have no answers. I remember it as if it were yesterday, those first days after losing you. All the numbness and the pain, the disbelief and the wishing that it were just a bad dream. It STILL feels like that. I drove to Medicine Hat on Friday wanting desperately to see her and to be there for Nana. I wanted to tell Auntie Barb that you’d be waiting for her, and that you’d make her smile and take her to Papa D. She beat me to it Will – as soon as I took her hand in my own and before I could speak, she told me she’d be seeing you soon and that she hoped I wouldn’t be too sad. If I could have traded places with her I would have. I told her that and in her wise and barely audible words she told me life didn’t work like that. I returned home Sunday morning wanting so very badly to see Dad and your brothers and to find the comfort I needed amongst them and memories of you in our home on Thanksgiving and your birthday.


Today I think about you being 16. I wonder what you’d look like, how long your hair would be or whether you’d want it short. I wonder how tall you would be and what your voice would sound like all grown up. I wonder how big your feet would be and if you’d be wearing a hat or a toque today. I wonder if you’d be shaving, and if you would have a girlfriend. I wonder if Kathleen would show up after school today with a bag full of your favourite candy and if today would have been the day you’d have passed your driver’s test.


I smile knowing only that you’d be handsome as ever with the bluest eyes in the land. I smile knowing that you’d be taller than me, and that your feet would be large. I know you’d be over the moon happy today, happy to be 16 and the centre of attention and happy to be driving like your friends. While I was walking Finn this morning I thought about what kind of car you might have up there. Whether it was an expensive racecar type that boys dream about or a ski van. Pondering those thoughts for a few minutes it suddenly came to me that you’d probably have the same vehicle as Ben. A truck just like his… probably even the same color… and I think Ben might actually be happy about that too.


Today I will visit Heaven’s Gate and I will place a painted rock under your tree there. Tonight we will have angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream just like we would have had if you were here with us. Instead I imagine that today Auntie Barb might just bake you the best angel food cake ever and that she’d ice it with that really fluffy white icing that only Nana D could make.


Happy Sixteen, Willy. I am sending you love and wishes and hand blown kisses all day.


Love you like a bus and a birthday truck just like Ben’s.










Sixteen Octobers and a Little Yellow Butterfly


A long gone October day with Brent and Jordan

A long gone unforgettable October day with Brent and Jordan

Tuesday, October 7, 2014



Dear Will,


For seven days now memories of the beautiful day in October when you were born are all I think about. Each year since your tragic passing it has been the same — as soon as September turns to October your birthday consumes me. On the first day of every October you would start by announcing, “14 days till my birthday!” and in the next breath, “What are we gonna do!?” Then the countdown would begin. A week from today you would have reached a milestone birthday – you’d be 16 years old. It is difficult for me to wrap my head around this because 16 seemed so far away when we celebrated your 12th birthday and what would be your last with us here. Like your brothers and most everybody turning 16, I suppose that getting your drivers license would be the first and most important thing on your list and right about now I imagine that you’d be scouring the Alberta Drivers License booklet refreshing yourself of all the facts you’d need to know so you could pass your drivers test. “Mom, can you quiz me?” “Can you ask me some questions after dinner?” “Mom, I think I’ve got it! But please can you ask me some more questions?” “Please, pretty please…?” As October 14th approaches I wish more than anything that you were here driving me crazy with your persistent excitement at turning 16 years old. Gosh, Will, if only it were different…


Instead, the memories of the twelve birthdays we celebrated together hit me like ocean waves rolling up on the beach. One memory after another conjures up endless pictures in my mind, numerous conversations and laughs we shared, and all the angel food cakes, icecream, and pizzas that were part of your special day. I remember all the places we went (bowling, gymnastics, swimming, and movies) and the times, too, when we had your birthday party at home. I think of how our kitchen table was surrounded by your friends, all with orange-dyed lips from the orange pop that you loved so much. Each time I write the word October or hear it in conversation or see it on a calendar or a piece of paper I feel sad; sad for what should be, for what you missed, and for what we missed too. It’ll never be right that you didn’t see sixteen Octobers.


With you ever present in my mind and while walking Finn down by the river this afternoon, a little yellow butterfly appeared. In an instant I knew it was you and as I walked and Finn chased his ball I talked to you. It felt nice to say your name and so I said it over and over. When I’d stop to pick up the ball with the chucker the little yellow butterfly would stop too. And then start. And then stop. This went on for quite some time and while tears rolled down my cheeks I noticed I was smiling too. You have this way, Will, of showing up when I need you, of validating my belief that you really are here and that you are never far away. As I struggle with what would have been your sixteenth October I applaud that little yellow butterfly that so profoundly visited Finn and me this afternoon. Thank you for finding me.


I love you, Willy. More than a bus and sixteen million Octobers.