Dear Sweet Nephew,
Hi, how are you? What’s it like living in the light you were on Earth?
I thought today I would write to you, because today it’s been 10 years since you left this Earth. I know you are still nearby, and all around, but, losing the chance to hold you in my arms and run my fingers through your beautiful blond hair again, that was the hardest thing I have ever had to let go of.
Marking 10 years today makes me look back on the last decade of my life without you. Of course, I wonder how things would be different if you hadn’t left. I wonder what an almost 13 year old version of you would look like, be like; how you would fit into a space in my life, how you would be a big brother, a son, a cousin.
But, I try not to dwell on thoughts like that, because obviously I can’t change what happened, I can’t bring you back. In my mind, you’ve stayed almost 3 eternally. In a way, that is a joy, because you were such a bright, beautiful, innocent beam of light in your short little life, and you’ve stayed that way in my mind.
These anniversaries have always been hard for me, but strangely not today. Today, I felt nothing but joy in remembering you. I can’t believe it’s taken 10 years to get to this point, where I can think of you and feel more joy then sorrow.
For the first few years after you died, I ached for weeks before March 15, every year. I wanted to hold a memorial service or plaster a huge sign on my roof, “I LOST THE BEST THING I EVER HAD IN MY LIFE!” I wanted the world to see my pain, I wished every person on this planet had known you, and known what they lost when you left this Earth so soon.
Then came all these ridiculous grief experiences these last few years, and each one has reminded me of you. So, I thought it was about time to deal with the pain of your loss. I started writing my book. I know you’ve been watching me write it – you’ve been right there in the pages of it with me. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to publish the parts about you or not – but I was meant to write them.
I know some people might think it looks like living in the past, but I think, actually, it was the first time I could look at the pain of your death with eyes of compassion for myself, with awareness, and courage to face the depths of the pain.
I wrote out every last detail of you – I put to paper every single piece of you I could remember. I wracked my brain for memories, so I could put into words exactly what it felt like when you ran your fingers through my hair, what it felt like to chase you to the Ice Cream Truck on a warm summer afternoon, what it felt like to hug you for the last time.
There were a lot of memories of your death that I had buried, and they were painful to dig up, but I faced them, courageously, so I could get past them. Writing about you seemed to help heal the wounds, leave them there on the pages once and for all, with all the ugliness and betrayal I felt over having to say goodbye to you forever.
Now, 10 years later, I’m not stuck in the pain of your loss anymore.
I’ve been reminded of how blessed I was to pay witness to your little life, your curiosity and zest for observing every little thing, great or small.
Now, I realize, the best way to honor your life, would be to live like you did, and to help others live that way – to live in pure JOY.
So, that’s what I want to do. I want to help people find a way to joy.
The pain of your loss was so hard because I thought I had lost that joy, but now I’m realizing, joy is not something that can be lost forever. It is simply lost, then found, again. It disappears, and reappears in other forms. When we hold no attachment to how we receive joy, we open ourselves up to receiving it from a gazillion different abundant sources. But, if we stay stuck in the sorrow of a loss, we lose out on seeing the joy that always exists around us.
After my Grandma died last week, I decided, I’m moving forward, just for the joy of it. I keep hearing those words over and over and over in my head since that day I sat at her bedside and felt her, as if she were standing behind me. I could hear her saying, “Just for the joy of it!” With that much exuberance, too! She was telling me to live just for the joy of experiencing every moment.
I needed that wake-up call because these last few years have sent me to Hell and back, repeatedly, and each time, I’ve come back with the fire and brimstone ashes of Hell’s fire on my feet, treading pain and anger everywhere I go.
I don’t want to live like that – in the pain and suffering; the lack of loss. I’m realizing, joy and sorrow are on two sides of one thread, and it’s up to me which ends of the threads I want to use to weave my life together from here.
So, today, on a day that has always made me wistful and melancholy, all I can do is smile at the giggle-busting memories of you. I usually cry on this day every year, but today, I don’t feel an inkling of a tear in me. I just remember how much I used to love to play with you – I lived to be invited into your little Universe each day. I would follow your breadcrumbs anywhere they took me, because I knew every moment with you would feel magical.
I want to try now, to create those giggle-busting moments in my own life, with my own kids, and the people I encounter each day. I want to try to be to my kids as a Mom, what I was to you, as an Aunt.
I want to push myself to expand in joy, instead of contracting in fear and pain. I want to spread joy, not just to my family, but to tons and tons of people all the over the place. Will you help me do that? Nudge me with a little inkling of your light every now and again so I don’t forget it? Help me keep this promise to myself and my little neck of the world?
You are not a part of my past, sweet boy, you are part of my present, and always will be. The joy you gave me, the light you filled me with – it’s still here. You’re still here. I can feel you. Thank you for all the indescribably perfect memories you gave me, for making me feel so special in your world, for two years and ten months of joy I’ll never forget with you. Thank you for loving me then, and loving me still. I’ll see you in my dreams and giggles, sweet boy. I’ll see you in my smiles.