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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A Gold Dipped Yellow Leaf

September 16, 2019

Dear sweet Will,

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.


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