I am a mother of three boys; two who run and one who soars. I lost my youngest son, Will (age 12), on the long weekend of May 2011 in a tragic accident near our home The world as I knew it was shattered in an instant. My purpose now is to help and support moms who have lost children; to let them know that they are not alone on this painful journey. But, it's bigger than that. I am hopeful that my story, my reality, can serve as a reminder to moms who are not living the "unimaginable" to remind them that motherhood is a precious gift. Helping others, in turn, helps me.
I cannot even put into words how to describe what this momentous passage of time, this significant marker, really feels like other than to tell you that you are still so sadly missed and immensely loved as much as ever. I imagine you are proudly touting your 10 year wings and I’ve no doubt they are bigger, brighter and sparklier than ever. Tonight I will look for you in the nighttime sky… pretty sure you will be the brightest little light up there tonight and before I retire to my bed I promise you I will find a reason to smile for you and because of you. This day feels heavier than usual for me but as I learned all those years ago deep grief is the price of deep love.
I miss you more than ever, sweet boy, and the big bus love is as real to me now as it was when you first said it to me when I tucked you into your bed when you were a toddler. The beautiful and cool thing is that the bus gets bigger and better with every passing hour, day, week, month and year and just when I think that bus cannot hold one more ounce of love it just does.
May is heavy. The heaviest of all the months for me. It is weighted with undeniable sadness, with silent tears, with the unendurable pain of losing you and with the loss of our own lives as we knew it almost 10 years ago. 10 years on May 22nd. Wait… sometimes it still feels like yesterday. And yet in the deepest part of my heart I know you are still with us. I still see and hear you – though in different realms. And Willy, I continue to feel your presence every day because it is just impossible not to.
Every May I place the book I compiled of your Celebration of Life on our coffee table in our living room and after re-reading every word over and over, year after year I think I almost have them memorized. To this day I am deeply grateful for the heartfelt messages and stories captured on that day and if I didn’t fully comprehend what a treasure it would be to be able to re-read them year after year I surely know now. As part of my lifelong healing, in those first few months I assembled every word spoken, every lyric sung and every memory shared into a book so that I would have it in one place, in something I could hold in my hands and revisit on a whim and, of course, every May. I am ever grateful for the blessings and tributes written and shared by cherished friends and family and appreciate the support and the heartfelt love that we continue to receive even still.
As I was re-reading “your book” this morning I wanted to share one of the tributes with you. I know you heard every word that John spoke at your celebration all those years ago but they made my heart smile this morning and they capture your essence in a way that was/is so “you”.
Here’s John’s words…
John Griffin Tribute
THE LITTLE BIG MAN
I have been asked to speak today on behalf of all the friends of the Bouchard family. Considering how many of us here today share a close friendship with Murray, Joni, Justin, Ben & Will, it is hard to know where to begin. I can safely say though that we all share memories of happy times, that will last forever. Much of what I can say speaks of our family’s countless memories that we have shared with such a wonderful family.
Our family has known the Bouchard’s since they moved to Redwood Meadows in 1996, a couple of years before Will arrived. It seems as if we’ve known them forever. However, many of their friends here today share memories with Murray & Joni that go far beyond that.
I know all of us are at a loss for words right now. How can you not be? But when you really take the time to celebrate Will’s life today, the countless memories we have are comforting, and even heart warming. I know that the Bouchard family would love nothing more than to know that we all focus our thoughts today on the memories of a playmate, a ski buddy, a classmate, a brother, and a son who made the world and the lives he touched a better place. Memories can never be taken away. Let me share a few.
I’m not sure how many of you have done the “kid exchange” thing with another family, but it’s a great system….one couple gets away by themselves, while all the kids get to hang out in the same house together for a few days. And then you repeat the event a couple of months later. Everybody wins!! My wife Nancy & I shared this arrangement on many occasions with the Bouchards.
I will never forget when Will stayed with us for a few days when he was just a little guy. He refused to wear anything but his Spiderman underwear. The problem was, Nancy & I didn’t know the rules of how he wore them, and it resulted in many tears for little Will. You see, he wanted the underwear on inside out, with the Spiderman picture pointing in so when he lifted out the waist band, he could look down and see Spiderman’s face. He was not a happy camper.
It is so appropriate that Murray & Joni chose the name Will. Not only was it a great name, there were so many nicknames that could come as a result of it, “Willbilly” being one. As a little guy, Will was an explorer, hence the nickname “Willy the Wanderer”. Will decided one day when he was about 2, that he needed to go on a walkabout. After a frantic search by many, Will was found on the banks of the Elbow River by a dog and his walker.
Many of us in Redwood Meadows remember the commotion during one of our local ball tournaments. “Willy the Wanderer” decided to climb into the family van which was parked by the ball diamond, with the keys in it, and proceeded to lock the door. I can’t quite remember how we eventually got him out, but I do know that the process lasted a couple of hours, and Will had spent every tear he had in him. On that day, he was known as “Free Willy”.
You may think that Will was always an adventure seeking child, living life on the edge. Well, I would like to dispel that myth. Of the countless memories we have sharing happy times with the Bouchard family, at the top of the list are the houseboat trips we took together on Shuswap Lake over 3 consecutive summers, from 2002 through 2004. They were, without a doubt, the best of times.
For the first 2 trips, when Will was 3 & 4, he did not let the waters of Shuswap Lake touch his feet. This had nothing to do with a dislike of water, but had everything to do with the creatures that lurked under the surface, otherwise known as fish. He spent most of his days in the hot tub, getting out occasionally to drop his drawers to his ankles and pee between the bars on the upper deck.
Unfortunately for poor Will, there were a couple of incidents that didn’t help his courage. On one of our trips we decided to explore the recently discovered cave of the infamous “Bushman of the Shuswap”. Will of course did not join us on that venture, but just the thought of the Bushman ensured that he had nightmares for the rest of the trip.
Just as he was beginning to overcome his fear of those fish creatures in the lake, didn’t the other kids happen to catch one. Will was actually quite fascinated by the sight of it, and stood by the counter as I prepared our catch for dinner. With his eyes at about level with the counter, I proceeded to chop the head off as Will stared in disbelief. I think it prolonged his fear of water for yet another year, and to this day he never ate fish.
I’m sure anyone who has been on a houseboat trip has had some misadventures, and tales to tell. Over 3 trips, we certainly had many. But the one that tops them all is the time that Nancy & Murray actually lost the houseboat. Will, known as “Wilson” at the time, ended up stranded on a deserted beach with a few other castaways. Fortunately for “Wilson”, who then became “Willigan”, Joni & I executed a successful rescue & recovery of all involved, including the houseboat.
The name that I will forever remember Will by though is the “Little Big Man”. It fit perfectly for Will. He was a smaller than average boy, growing up in a family with brothers 5 and 10 years older who he adored and looked up to. He tried so hard at times to be bigger than he was, and keep up with the older boys, and at times he pulled it off. Deep down though, he was a softie, who would gladly switch from being the “Little Big Man” to cuddling with his Mom. He was famous for his hugs and affection, and loved painting rocks with Joni.
Our daughter Kathleen and Will shared a very close friendship, and never tired of each other’s company. They preferred not to call each other friends, but would rather be referred to as brother & sister. Kathleen would willingly take part in full on wrestling, while Will would gladly succumb to Kathleen’s world of imagination. As so-called siblings, they shared their fair share of disagreements. When Kathleen reached her limit, you commonly heard the “Will, Will” scream, followed by shouts of “What the Heck Kathaleen” in that distinctive Will voice.
Many of Will’s summers began at Whispering Pines campground on Mara Lake with several families that are here today. I have seen many photos from these trips, and have heard many stories of those happy times. Some of his closest pals were part of those vacations, and they will miss the close friendship they shared with Will.
And then there’s Fernie. The “big man” that Will looked up to more than anyone else was his Dad. Fortunately for Will, he had more opportunities to share in Murray’s passion for skiing than most get to experience in a lifetime. I know there are many here today that will find it hard to replace the companionship of their ski buddy. If you are one of those powder pals of Will’s, and you look ahead to the ski seasons yet to come, remember to take some time on an epic Fernie day, and think of Will. Take him down that run with you, and give him the ride of his life. He will be smiling with you all the way.
Murray, Joni, Justin & Ben. On behalf of all of your friends, we are heartbroken, and can’t imagine how difficult this must be for all of you. There are so few words that we can say that can help make sense of this. I truly believe that Will’s spirit lives on. You have provided him with a wonderful life in a loving home and raised him in an incredible community. I do believe he is still smiling that sweet smile, still laughing, and spending his days in a paradise that is beyond the one that he shared with us. Forever young.
We all want to thank you, Murray & Joni, for accepting our love and support. Your community of friends has been drawn together through a love for Will. You need to know that we will continue to be there for you in the days, and years ahead. You have so many dear friends that want to help you on your journey, and I know you know that. I can think of so many times when it was you reaching out to help others. Now it’s our turn to reach out to help you.
Oh, how special you are, my sweet boy. No wonder I miss you so much. I hope you never underestimate how “big” your life was to us down here. Please continue to shine your little, big light down on those of us who continue to celebrate every day of the 12 1/2 years we had with you.
I love you beyond words, WillBilly. Like that big bus we always spoke of. And then some more.
Amidst this crazy world I am desperately trying to say goodbye to winter and in true Willy fashion you keep mixing up snow and sending it down! These past three weeks have not gone without a considerable snowfall and then just to mess with my mind you pull out a blue sky with a sun so warm and bright that tiny green shoots poke through the snow to then throw in an hour or two of more of the dreaded flakes. Not the kind that melt on contact with the ground but at times the kind that blow sideways with the wind and feel like ball bearings are coming from the sky. Each time (and it’s been daily this week) I look up to the sky and mutter your name… at first it was with a smile, then the next time with an eye roll and a smile, the next time with a shake of my head and maybe not a smile… Each time my reaction building on itself and now I’m at the stern mother plea of “enough now”.
So, what do I hear in return? You giggling. (How I miss that sound). Your contagious giggle followed by the phrase you (and your brothers) were famous for when you were 4 and 5 years old. “You’re not the boss of me”. That phrase on many occasions was part of your power struggle when you just didn’t want to succumb to my requests. Oh boy, I remember it well. We did have to pick our battles and, quite frankly, sometimes it wasn’t worth the struggle. Here’s some I remember…
Me: “Will, no cookies before dinner. Even the ones in your pocket should go back in the jar.”
You: “You’re not the boss of me.”
(I think most times, I won this one.)
Me: “Please get in the car, Willy. We haven’t time to ride your bike to the dentist. And, we’re gonna be late.”
You: “You’re not the boss of me.”
(I definitely won this one. The dentist was in another town.)
Me: “It would be a good idea for you to put your brother’s skateboard back where you got it. Before he notices that it is missing.”
You: “You’re not the boss of me.”
(You won this one. Once.)
Me: “How about we put those rubber boots away (after wearing them for three months everyday). Your flip flops just might be more comfortable with your shorts?”
You: “You’re not the boss of me.”
(You won this one and wore your rubber boots until you outgrew them in the fall.)
Me: “Do you think we could leave the Batman cape in the car while we go into the grocery store?”
You: “You’re not the boss of me.”
(You won this one too. On many occasions.)
So each time you poke me with more snow when I just want to see the grass turn green I am reminded that maybe now, you are the boss and that you must be lovin’ this. Knowing it drives me crazy and relishing in getting the coveted last word. Really, what could be better? Being the youngest of three boys meant it wasn’t often that you got the last word though it sure wasn’t for lack of trying. Up there, sweet boy, it appears you really are the boss. Throwing down the snow mixed with moments of blue sky and sunshine, watching me go from a winter coat and boots to a sweater and my Birkenstock’s, from wearing mittens to enjoying a cup of tea on my deck, from turning on the fireplace to opening the patio doors… what the heck, Will! As I think of what this must look like from your vantage point up there no wonder you’re giggling. Of course, you hold the boss card. Admittedly, the lesson is that it is only April and we are only onto our 4th snowstorm of Spring and I’m not holding my breath on you throwing down some more. You are the boss after all.
As for winter and saying good riddance, I know you’re happier than a clown up there never having to say goodbye to winter. I imagine the snow is up to your eyeballs and that your skis are close by. And the sky is bluer than blue and it’s snowing at the same time. How do you do that? Dumb question. I guess only a boss would know.
Green grass, sigh…. soon, I hope…
But, my winter boots are still at the front door.
I miss you, my sweet boy. More than you could ever know because there’s not a word down here that is big enough to describe that.
And, I love you, little boss. More than a bus parked on a patch of green grass with snow up to the roof under a bluer than blue sky.
It seems rather fitting that yesterday, on the 22nd day of the month I decorated the gingerbread boys I somewhat reluctantly baked last week. Each year since your passing the little gingerbread boys have become a tradition that I set aside time for and that I have always looked forward to. This year with COVID and how it has changed our world I stumbled, wondering at times if it would be worth it, wondering who would eat them all (other than us!), wondering if anyone would really even notice that the “boys” didn’t make it into their little holiday bags ready to be handed out to friends and family as in years past because we’re isolating and not gathering socially due to the pandemic. And then it hit me – ultimately, it would matter to me and it would matter because of you. It would matter because it has become a tradition born from your passing and not even a world pandemic would stand in the way of those little gingerbread boys and what they mean to me.
I realized yesterday how much I enjoy the ritual and learned that it really wasn’t any trouble at all, but rather a little labour of holiday love in honor of you. I buried myself at the kitchen table with Christmas carols and warm tea, with little gingerbread boys and piped frosting and little white candy hearts. I thought about our Christmases together and though my mind got stuck on how 12 Christmases just weren’t enough I managed to flip the bitter to sweet and remembered how much fun we packed into the Christmases we did have together.
It is easy to complain about the busy-ness of the season but for me the days leading up to Christmas were always the best and the busier we were, it seemed the happier we were. The magic would build day by day, even when the magic of Santa became the magic of giving for all of us. After your angel date we adopted some new Christmas traditions because we knew Christmas would never be the same. To keep on as we did would magnify the empty chair, the empty stocking and the achingly absent “To Will, From Us” gifts under the tree.
Instead we chose to make you the star, the angel, the toque on top of our tree. We made you our morning Santa with socks and pajamas from you to all of us Christmas morning. We still hang your stocking on the mantle amidst all of ours but on Christmas morning it becomes the anchor upon which our Christmas dinner centerpiece sits. We carefully place it in the middle of our dining room table where we light the sparkliest of candles. The last present under the tree is a jigsaw puzzle or a game from you to us – a promised activity that we enjoy doing together. And then there are the coveted gingerbread boys. The boys I am glad I did not leave out this year. Now that they are decorated the world feels a bit right again, even in this crazy and strange world of unknowns and uncomfortable concerns about the coronavirus. Admittedly, I didn’t bake as many this year knowing that I’d eat far too many if they were hanging around the kitchen. There is nothing right about one small family having to eat 10 or so dozen of those little boys… they are small, but…
I enjoyed our afternoon, Will. Needless to say, I miss you more than ever — more than I did yesterday and the day before and the day before that. I am overjoyed that the little gingerbread boys prevailed and that we have them to enjoy over the holidays. Yesterday I discovered that without them it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas. The tags I included with the little boys in every holiday cookie bag over the years are printed and in the tin — an undeniable reminder that…
“Before they can be men, they must be boys.”
And so this is Christmas. And on this side your little light still shines as bright as ever. I’m told some stars are like that, Willy. In my heart of hearts I know your spirit is with us today and yesterday and tomorrow and on Christmas and everyday. We carry you with us in all that we do. Your little light is in each of those little gingerbread boys, a reminder that the little boy / the child is alive and well in all of us, if we just believe.
I love you, my sweet boy. More than a bus and more than all the little gingerbread boys and men and sugar cookies and milk in Santa’s big belly on Christmas eve.
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.
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.
I’m not sure there are words to even describe what missing you forever feels like. There is a quote that I frequently refer to that I think sums it up best…
Sometimes one person can be missing and the whole world feels empty.
… Yup, “empty” feels like the right word. But again, it’s so much more than that.
And, it’s May. The hardest month of the year. Every day a sad reminder of the day our world changed forever. I wonder every May if your angel date won’t sting so much, but almost nine years later, the sting still stings.
And, today is Mother’s Day. You and Justin and Ben are the best part of me and I am missing all of you.
The social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 have not allowed me to see your brothers but, thankfully, that is a “just for now” thing. I will see them soon, but you, Will, are the one I will miss forever. Today I think of my own Mom, your Nana, and how much she means to me — how in this world she is the one person I’ve known the longest (ahem, like my whole life!) and whom I have always been able to count on in good times and in bad. I hope you know that every minute of your 12 ½ years I loved you more than the minute before and that all these days later my big love for you just gets bigger.
My heart smiles recalling all the beautiful, and sometimes funny, gifts and kind gestures that you and your brothers and Dad did to make Mother’s Day extra special for me. I am lucky to have had all of what you boys could muster when what mattered the most was that we were together. Believe me, Will, I have tucked every special memory and every cold piece of toast into my heart. I have kept every homemade card and gift you boys ever made at school and that big box of love is one of my most treasured possessions. Today I will spend my day touching and reading every one of them remembering the tiny and not-so-tiny hands that created them.
I will pause and remember the sound of your infectious giggle and call to mind how you’d sit at the kitchen table with that big tub of Crayola markers and crayons and construction paper and pipe cleaners and stickers and tape. Oh, how you loved tape. With a juice box and a bowl of fishy crackers at your side.
My sweet Will, I miss you so very much. I miss all the yesterdays, I miss you today and I will miss you for all the tomorrows.
And I love you. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever… Like a bus from here to forever and then a whole bunch more.
It’s crazy down here. And, as you look down on our world I wonder what you must be thinking? It’s hard to even believe that we are where we are. But, my sweet boy, we are. I cannot help but appreciate what heaven must be like right now… where eternal love and beauty are uninterrupted and where there is no wrong, no hurt and no pain. A place where there are no coronaviruses… and perhaps the only place right now where there is no COVID-19!
Down here we are praying for the safety of ALL who are on the front line of this crisis – all the healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, grocers, pharmacists, truck drivers… all who are providing essential needs to where we can access them… Our world needs big love right now and the best way to love this world is to heed the advice of the scientists and medical professionals and stay home. And so, we are hunkering down at home. Dad and I are committed to keeping our small bubble safe, as are your brothers in their own little bubbles. And Finn, well, I think he’s never been happier. He’s never left at home alone!
Many times throughout the day I find myself looking up to the sky for answers and for hope. I look up there because that is where you are and, well, that other big guy, too… the guy I refer to as God. I trust that he’s got this and that you are helping him share the light and the hope and the love. Send an extra big helping to those on the front line and those fighting for their lives because right now they need it most.
I believe that at some point the world will be able to return to some semblance of what we once called normal but, too, I hope that we are all better people for it. I hope that our world can be kinder and more grateful and that we can celebrate every day for the blessed ordinariness of the little things that too many take for granted. Our time here is finite and we can all make a difference. The world needs to unite in this crisis. We are not an “us and them” but one big ole world who needs lots of big ole one love.
I’ve unpacked the “ONE LOVE” canvas that you painted when you were 11 years old and I think I will never pack it away again. It needs to be hung in our home where we can love it everyday, not only because your little hands created it, but also because it is a message that we need to practice everyday.
I miss you, little blue. And I love you. More than a bus and bigger than our big ole hurting world right now.
Keep on shining your little light, Willy. Our world needs it so much.
Boy, oh boy. Turning the calendar to not only a new month, and to not only a new year but to a new decade sure magnifies how long it’s been since my worst day ever and how much I miss you still. I know I will miss you forever, sweet boy… that is just how love works. The minute to minute, moment to moment, day to day; the ebb and flow of every sunrise and every sunset from days to weeks to months and years just seems like too much to process at times. It still surprises me that a minute can feel like forever and forever can feel like a minute. I guess that, too, is how love works.
I remember years ago (it doesn’t feel good to even say that) I used to count the days since your passing and when those days went from the hundreds into the thousands I stopped. I had to stop. Instead, I focused on all the precious moments and memories. It feels better to recount all the lovely treasured moments and memories instead of counting the days without you. Perspective. Whoa. It can sure change things. Again, staying in the beautiful moments is how love works.
Perspective is an interesting thing. It can be profound to say the least. One of my biggest enlightenments and something that has been perhaps the most helpful since your passing was when the boys offered their perspective on grief. They said, “Mom, Dad, instead of trying to figure out how to live without Will, how about figuring out how to live for him.” Two words… “FOR Will” instead of “WITHOUT Will”. What a profound difference it makes. Those words and that message changed things in such a profound and healthy way. Love is a complicated thing but living in the positive feels so much better than living in the negative. It doesn’t change that you’re still not here, but it sure changes how I choose to live and honour you every minute, moment, day, week, month and year. That, my sweet boy, is also how love works.
I read recently a post that a grieving mom made after losing her young son – a boy just a little older than you – and her message resonated so deeply within me. She talked about perspective… how the little things in life outweigh the big things. She said:
“You arrive one day at a place and look back on your life and realize that the little things in your life, weren’t so little after all. They were big things. Those random moments spent talking while you make supper or swinging on the back porch in the late afternoon, talking while you went down to pick up the mail, those “little” conversations after school, those “little” messes, those “little” texts, those “little” goodnights shouted across the hall…. those are not so little to someone who is missing the person whose time on this earth was…. too little.
Losing someone you love instills great perspective when you allow it to. Appreciate the “little” moments with your loved ones, because one day, you may find those moments were not so little after all.”
Perspective IS everything. Love works in such magical ways if your heart is open. Good things will come if you let love in. The reason I miss you so much, Will, is because I loved you so deeply. Grief is love upside down and yet still it all comes back to love.
You continue to be my compass, Will. My barometer for all things good and pure. You are the light in my darkest days, the hand I hold when I’m scared. To smile and cry in the same breath is love. It’s you. It’s “for” instead of “without”, it’s a whole lot of little things instead of a handful of big things, it’s being better instead of bitter.
I love you, sweet Will. I always did and I always will. More than and bigger than a million little buses. You and I both know that’s how love works.
The color of your eyes and yes, the color of the sky on a beautiful sun-kissed day.
You are undeniably our little Mr Blue Sky but sometimes blue is used to describe feelings of sadness and these December days are quite blue for me, Willy. It’s not surprising at this time of year to harbour these feelings — we know this well, for every book on grief, every counsellor we spoke to and every parent walking with us on this journey will attest that that is true. Of course, it is. Missing a loved one over the holidays can certainly conjure up a dark blue cloud of sad that can sometimes, for some, make December unbearable.
For me, December feels like a magnifying glass pointed at the empty chair. Your absence is palpable, Will … sometimes it screams at me and try as I do to search for the silver lining sometimes there are days when I just have to succumb to these blue feelings and I retreat to a place within. I go quietly to that sacred place in my heart where the very best memories live, where you live and where I feel closest to you. I pray to God to help me through the darkness and ask him to watch over me as I sit there for a bit. Long enough to get lost in all those perfectly ordinary days that we shared but not too long that I would forget how to pull myself up. You know this place well, Willy… it’s where we learned to dance between what was and what is. My heart reminds me that grief and sadness are the price of love and that I am feeling blue because I love you and I miss you.
Sure, the hustle and bustle of December is here and…
I’ve yet to pull out the Christmas boxes, but I will.
I’ve yet to put up the tree, but I will.
I’ll bake little gingerbread boys, like I always do.
I’ll play Christmas music and sing out loud, like I always do.
I’ve yet to make my shopping list and venture out to the shops, but I will.
I’ll wrap gifts and plan our Christmas dinner, like I always do.
And, all the while I will miss you every second of every minute. Like I always do.
But, for today and maybe even tomorrow I will dance with you and not worry about the list. When it feels right I’ll be ready to return to the hustle and bustle of December feeling recharged and ready to go. You will urge me to go, reminding me that it is what you’d want me to do. With your gentle nudge I will get busy and “bring on” Christmas like we always do. I will trust that everything will get done to the best of my ability and that what will be this December, will be exactly what it should be. I will be present for those that are my world — Dad and Ben and Justin and Amy and Finn — knowing that together is the best place to be and knowing also that you’ll be smack dab in the middle of all of it. My beautiful family and my friends that feel like family will be close in my thoughts and I will let them all know how grateful I am for their love, their continued support and for their friendship. They really are the best gifts.
You are my blue crayon, Will, and I love you more than a blue sky day and a bus full of blue crayons.
Today I watched the first yellow leaf fall from your tree. It reminded me of a tear as it fell to the ground and in those few seconds I did wipe a tear as it rolled down my cheek. Sometimes the unexpected can just get me like that. It was also a stark reminder of the passage of time… another season, another fall since you passed to the other side. I ponder how that can be possible when it feels both so long ago and like yesterday at the same time. That golden yellow leaf is also a reminder of the many signs of you that seem to be everywhere – all of them beautiful in their abundance and all of them I am ever grateful to be witness of. They are a daily reminder that you are indeed near and that you continue to watch over us. It really is possible in the moments of each passing day, week, month, season and year to see little signs of you in all kinds of places and in so many different ways. Little blue butterflies, heart shaped rocks, a snowflake, a brand new leaf, rainbows, tiny-fluffy- speckled feathers, a chattering squirrel or cawing crow and sometimes the magical, indescribable way Finn seems to look through me instead of at me. I know all of these are somehow you. I often reply to these abundant signs saying out loud, “Hey Willy, I see you, I hear you, I feel you.” I have had many conversations with these signs of you believing and hoping that you can see me, hear me and feel me, too.
The painful part is that I miss you as you were. So many things I miss… I miss watching you grow, seeing you run and jump. I miss hearing your giggle and the sound of your voice. I miss watching you make cinnamon toast in the morning and how you’d pour milk into your bowl of honey nut Cheerios. Frequently there’d be more milk on the counter than in your bowl but you insisted that you could do it and if I made a fuss about how that was wasteful you’d look at me and without saying a word you’d lick it right off the counter just to prove a point. I know I didn’t miss that back then but I’d give anything for a bowl of spilled milk now. I miss watching you swing your backpack over your shoulder and how sometimes it was so jam packed that you looked like a turtle carrying its shell. I long for the morning chaos that was part of every school day… how you’d rush to eat breakfast and brush your teeth before you’d stuff your backpack with all you needed for the day and then how you’d saunter out the door (and sometimes run like mad) to catch the bus to school. I miss our conversations about what mattered most to you on each given day. I miss watching how you loved being with your buddies and how much you loved pushing your brothers’ buttons and wrestling and cuddling with Dad. I miss your “Hi Mom” when I’d see you in the hallways at school and your public hugs when you just knew it meant more to me than to you. I miss watching you work so hard to get through your homework after school because every extra minute was golden when you were playing with your friends and / or jumping on the trampoline before dinner. I miss the way you would stall every bedtime routine and then how you’d look forward to our time to read together before bed. I miss hearing you say, “goodnight mom” and how you’d tell me you loved me like a bus. I miss our bedtime hugs and watching you as you slept when I’d enter your room one more time before it was my turn to crawl into my bed down the hall. I know these times were fleeting in the big picture but like every parent I always believed that these little nuances – these routines of everyday life – would morph into different age appropriate routines as you grew older. Never did I ever believe that it would end so tragically and so quickly. When I look back I am reminded of how fleeting it really was and how precious those moments really were. What a gift an ordinary day was back then and how lucky I am to be able to recall so many. I am especially grateful to have had that perspective. I will hold onto each and every one of them for all of my days on earth.
And Will, when the next golden leaf flutters from your tree to the ground I will choose to look at it as you waving to me instead of feeling it as my tears. I will watch closely so I don’t miss it and as fall inevitably makes its grand entrance I will see you wave many, many times as the leaves from your thriving little tree cover the ground. Watch me, Will, as I will be waving back at you.
I miss all of you, sweet boy, and I love you beyond words. Like a bus. A big, yellow bus full of beautiful gold dipped, yellow leaves.