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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Rolling Down the Highway

April 28, 2019

Dear Will,

Gosh, sweet boy, it’s been a bit since I’ve put my words to you in a letter… but it sure doesn’t mean that I haven’t been talking to you. Not a day goes by where I don’t find myself having some sort of conversation with you. When I think about it, it must look awkward, even weird, to those who see and hear what looks like a one sided conversation… ahhh, but what they don’t know is that they aren’t one sided at all. I see you and I hear you in all kinds of ways.

I have spent the last few months travelling between what is our new home in Fernie and the place that will always feel like home back in Redwood and area. Both places so very special because they are the two places on this earth that you loved. One you called home and the other you dreamed of calling home. Each time I drive the three hours between those two places I settle into a trip down memory lane and the nostalgia gets me every time. When the sun is shining and the roads are bare I enjoy these road trips with you very much. As I pass the countryside and the landmarks along the way I imagine you are sitting on my left shoulder where my wise friend told me the boys angels sit. I hear you whisper in my ear, “Mom, can we stop and climb on the rocks at the Frank Slide?” “Can we stop for icecream?” “Mom, I have to pee… can you pull over? I can’t wait til we get to a gas station… I gotta go!”

I fondly remember the car games we played; the Geography Game, 20 Questions, and the “When I go to Fernie I’m gonna take my – something that begins with A, then B and C and so on. When you were little we’d play “I spy with my little eye” and no one could ever see what you where spying because, one, you were the random master of detail and, two, I know you would change your mind during play when one of us guessed correctly leading us on a goose chase of confusion until one of us would say “Will, I give up!”. On one of my trips not long ago I found myself playing the Sign Game all by myself. You loved that game, too.

All these family trips back and forth are vividly etched in my heart and as I sit with them now I am grateful that it was a time when phones and iPads and digital devices weren’t as popular as they are now. It gifted us hours and hours of looking out of the window instead of down at a screen. I remember how we’d moo at cows in the fields as we passed and how we sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs for two months before Christmas. You knew them all.

I love how you’d pack your dark blue drawstring bag with all the possessions you couldn’t live without before we headed to and from Fernie. When you were small, there were little cars and a lego man or two, sometimes a yo-yo or Pokémon cards and always, always a bag of fishy crackers and a juice box. As you got older, that same blue bag held your iPod and your earbuds, your sticker collection, a couple of ski magazines, usually some candy and, always, always fishy crackers and a juice box.

I am smiling to myself now as I reminisce over how you couldn’t stop singing. You. Never. Stopped. Singing. Outside of the car, Will, it was how I knew where you were. Like for real. When you were small it was children’s songs and jingles and lots of Dad’s and your brothers’ music choices – songs that you grew up listening to. And then when you were 10 or 11 you got an iPod and discovered your own world of music. This was a happy time for you as your little world of music and singing exploded. And so did the quiet times in the car. You’d plug in your earbuds and sing and hum and sing and hum and sing and hum… with many reminders to please stop singing out loud. You just couldn’t do it. Not surprising, Dad and I just got back from visiting Uncle Jim in Kelowna and as we meandered along highways we’d never driven we listened to one of your playlists. Years ago, I downloaded it to my iTunes so that I could have it with me always. I’m pretty sure you were with us in the truck that day singing out loud with us as we drove through the mountains. Each song took us back to you and all the countless road trips we made as a family… so many bittersweets attached to that playlist.

These frequent trips I have been making between Fernie and “the hood” are full of memories that at the time seemed uneventful and at times frustrating. After all, a backseat filled with three boys wasn’t always harmonious. But as I look back now, the family time we spent rolling down the highways was a large part of how our family lived and played. What mattered is that we were together on all those drives and my heart swells as I let my mind wander back to those days when our world was perfect.

I miss you, sweet Will. And I will always love you. More than anything and like a bus full of fishy crackers and your favourite tunes rolling down the highway with the sun shining down on us and the windows wide open as we sing at the top of our lungs.


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