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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Christmas. Sigh…

December 22, 2018

Dear sweet boy,

In these final, few days before Christmas I am stopping to pause; to give myself permission to escape this busy bubble of hustle and bustle so I can spend a day uninterrupted with you. As the busy season unfolds I struggle more with losing you than I normally do. Every December feels like this. Perhaps it is because there is such a strong focus on family and for us, well, it is out of order and interrupted. We carry on as best as we can because we know you’d want us to spend Christmas doing and being and loving as we always did. And so we do. For you. And because of you.

Last night was a restless one for me. I tossed and turned, waking frequently with thoughts of you and Christmases past. Memories that would shake me awake followed by a sense of urgency to want to close my eyes and try to lull myself back to those very precious times. It was a bittersweet dance and after hours of going back and forth I decided that writing a letter to you while I sat in the early morning darkness amidst the lights on our Christmas tree would be time well spent. I always do feel better after a conversation with you.

As I sipped my hot tea I thought about the magic of Christmas and how you, being the youngest of the three boys, were the one who kept the Santa magic alive for all of us for many years. I laughed recalling some of the tactics Justin and Ben would use to keep you believing that without a doubt there really was a white bearded, chubby guy in a red suit that made and brought presents, but only if you were on the good kid list. They had explanations for every question and played along not wanting to ruin it for you (… probably because I threatened them and I’m quite sure the thought of no Santa gifts was a pretty strong deterrent). I did hear recently of a funny albeit brilliant story of a mom who told her two boys that the smoke alarms in the house were Santa cams and that when the green light was on (which, of course, is always on) it meant that Santa was watching. Everyday. All year long. I wonder how long that worked? Your brothers weren’t quite that menacing.

Mostly, Will, I remembered how much fun we had every Christmas and how important it was for all of us to be together. Never did I ever imagine that we’d have a Christmas without you and that “never” actually meant forever. The pain of losing a child is unimaginable and I believe wholeheartedly that the human spirit can only go to that kind of pain if it has no choice but to. Seven years into our grief journey I feel like we have come to a place now that we can find moments of joy again but it is because we have surrounded our Christmas with memories of you. You are our Santa and the angel atop of our tree. The last gift under the tree is always a jigsaw puzzle to us from you. You are the candle light on our Christmas table and as we toast the season and each other we toast you as well. I do feel your presence and know with my whole heart that you are with us and that you always will be.

This summer I photographed some of your journal writings from your grade 7 school year. Indubitably what we didn’t know then was that Christmas 2010 was your last Christmas with us on earth. I scrolled through my photos and found what you’d written about Christmas that year.

I’ve read and re-read your words not only for what you said but loving how your writing looked and how I remembered it to be. Your message reflects the true essence of Christmas. Simple and thoughtful. It really is not so much about the receiving part and so much more about the giving. Just like you wrote. That you felt like that at 12 years old makes me a proud mom.

Our tree this year is full of our ski passes as usual and new this year I filled it with fuzzy, soft snowballs. They remind me so much of you. And your brothers, too. I hope it makes you smile as you look down on it. Yup, your Santa hat is still at the top as our angel.

As the morning dawns I think about my list… all the things I need to do… the last minute shopping, the wrapping, the cleaning. And then I looked at your face on your last Fernie ski pass and decided to go make myself another cup of tea. I grabbed a blanket and returned to where I last sat in front of our tree. There is no rush. It will all get done. It always does. More important, today is about you and me.

I miss you so much, sweet Will. More than words can describe.

And, I love you. Like a bus. Full of Christmas love, snowballs, candlelight, childhood memories and everything that is you at Christmas. Sigh…


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