One year ago today was the hardest day of my life. The weeks that followed that day — the day I buckled you into a car seat, stepped back and watched you drive away — were first the numbest and then the most painful I’ve ever felt. The truth is, even a year later, I still feel the empty space you once occupied. I carry it with me wherever I go.
A couple of days ago, I was driving through town on my way to the grocery store. I made a left turn and I gasped a little. Where are you, are you ok, are you happy, I miss you, were the words lodged within that gasp. I think it’s because I took a different route to the grocery store; I took a route you and I used to take together, a path I probably hadn’t driven in months.
You used to chatter nonstop at me in the grocery store. Do you remember that? Mommy, can we get this? Mommy, can we get that? Mommy, who is that person? Mommy, where is the milk? Mommy, can we get donuts? Mommy, can we get cookies? Mommy, have I been a good boy??? I cannot step foot into that store without thinking about you. Partly because you went with me so often, partly because of the way you loved practically everything I ever cooked for you with the ingredients we bought together.
I try to picture you as you are now. One year older. Taller. Less “preschooler” and more “big kid.” My imagination won’t cooperate. In my mind, you remain the sparkle-eyed, grinning, dancing four-year-old boy I knew. I wish I knew you now, though. I bet you are still magnificent. (I just tried to conjure the best word to describe you and there it was: magnificent… Impressively beautiful, elaborate or extravagant; striking. Yep, that’s you.)
You were with us for eleven months; you’ve been gone for a year. How is it that you’ve been gone longer than you were here? How can that be when I still expect to hear your feet hit the floor with a thud! in the morning and still expect to turn and see you trailing me through the house and around every corner?
I hope you feel safe, honey. I hope that you get to have all the macaroni and cheese your little heart desires. I hope you are still singing and dancing and performing for all who will listen. I hope, more than anything, that you are happy.
I don’t know how much you still remember of us or whether you wonder where we went. I can only hope that the words I used to whisper in your ear come back to you when you need them most. Because they are as true today as they were one year ago when I spoke them out loud for the last time.
Even when you can’t see us, especially when you can’t see us, we love you.