A week before what would be your 41st birthday and I heard this song for the first time.  And let me just say, waiting in the pick-up line for your middle-schooler in the parking lot is not a cool look to be crying in your car while listening on repeat. 

We are living almost five years without you now. Half a decade. Half. A. Decade…

Bella will be six soon, she will be the age Johnathan was when you died and that makes my heart ache. It’s also a big trigger of fear and regret. I pray another tragedy doesn’t strike and she will be filled with the same sorrow, fear, and worry that her brother was. I look at her often and think about what her brother endured at this age.  She’s so little and to try and wrap your mind around such a complex grief reminds me of how terrible that was for her brother. HE was so little, so scared, confused and the pain so severe he hasn’t been the same since. He is in middle school now. Very aware that today is your birthday. He didn’t ask to stay home for the first time in all these years. He woke up extra early though, probably from struggling to stay asleep all night (I’ll never know cause he wouldn’t want me to worry about that). He got ready and made himself a bowl of cereal while I packed his and his sister’s lunch. He skirted around his dreams and feeling a pain in his chest, but that he slept through the night. He packed his back pack and said “at sundown Yom Kippur begins, I like that this holiday is on dad’s birthday”. The holiest day of the year begins at sun down and he is so acutely aware of how that might impact him. 

In year five we closed a lot of major chapters in your death. It seems crazy to think that there were still things going on all these years. But things I could not talk about; or ever will probably. But it lifted the weight of the world from my shoulders and as we enter another fall and winter season without you, I feel free and lighter being able to end those deeds. I have so many ideas and so many plans that felt stuck for so long. It feels like standing on the edge of forever now. That feels hopeful. By now, I’ve read a lot of books on grief. Some I’ve agreed with, others I could have thrown through a glass window.  What I’ve learned is that no one is immune to grief and loss; but all the literature and self-talk and preparation in the world will never prepare you for such an intimate loss. No matter who you’ve lost and how they died, the rupture will (not can) swallow you into a hole and shake you to the core and you will have to dig your own way out.  It doesn’t prepare you for the people that will leave you and expect that you must have or should have “moved on” and that those people who do stay become wise enough to know that they cannot dig you out either. The ones who stay can only send you supplies and cheer you on. The way out is treacherous, exhausting, and then you might emerge….new. The world looks different but it’s the same.  You’re more sad, but more grateful, you’re bruised and scarred from the journey but you wear those badges proudly because they are proof of how deep that love ran.  What might be misunderstood is that the world expects that you come out “whole again” that the same you will emerge. You look the same, sound the same, feel the same..but you are not the same and slowly the world begins to recognize and take notice. You now belong to a dark secret society of griever’s who thought they knew, but now they know and the knowing is different, much different. Yes, grief is expected. Maybe you believe it’s part of life. But let me tell you this, whatever you tell yourself to prepare, will never be enough and when you walk the line of grief it will only happen once you’ve dug your way out of the raw feelings and stripping of security you thought you had in this life. 

I can see a griever from a mile away now and if you know, we know. My friends and family who have been there by my side to hear it all and see it all. Who sent supplies and cheers – I love you all. I love a talented artist who isn’t afraid to write, paint, sing, act the experience of grief (I love you Ed Sheeran and so many others for capturing this so beautifully). 

In honor of your birthday, we will again surprise a stranger with a cake on their birthday – Giving back just as you did, just as you would have wanted. 

I love you and miss you. 

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