I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat down to write this letter to you this week, searching for the right words, trying to put down all of these thoughts and feelings in my head, when all I really want to say is that I miss you, that my heart is hurting right now, that I’m struggling to accept how another birthday has come around so fast, how another year has flown, without you.
And I wish, more than anything, that I was sat here now deciphering between my favourite anecdotes of your eleventh year, thinking of all of the moments we had shared over the last twelve months, the funny things you had said, the amazing things you had achieved, the days we had spent together filled with so much love and laughter, never knowing sadness, never living with such loss.
I wish that I was getting teary eyed looking back over your baby photos, remembering the day we had taken you home, when we had dressed you in the baby blue romper, the one I had so lovingly chosen on discovering you were a boy. I wish that I was flicking through photo albums, one after another, remembering how Lewis had beamed with pride at holding the little brother he had long awaited, how those jet black locks had turned into soft blonde curls against your neck, those spindly long legs into chunky squishable thighs.
I wish that I was looking back on your first smile, your first steps, first day at school, first football match, fuzzy captures of a gappy smile as you held a trophy above your head. I wish that I was pouring through photos of the two of you, the three of you, the four and five of you, piled into my arms, my face beaming with pride, the luckiest Mummy in all the world.
I would give anything to have you burst into the kitchen right now, your face flushed from the Summer sun, to have you peer over my shoulder, roll your eyes, and tell me, “Don’t be putting that on Instagram!”, in just the same way that Lewis does. I would give just about anything to pull you into my arms and smother you with kisses, to tell you that you may be eleven but you will always be my baby boy, to ruffle your hair and tell you how very much I love you, to have you turn to me and say, “I love you too Mum.”
And yet I know that day will never come.
Today, on what would have been your eleventh birthday, you would also have left primary school, a day which would have been doubly emotional for your old Mum. And we would have done just the same for you as we did for Lewis, a meal out, a special treat, a moment together, just you and I, escaping the madness of life as a family of seven.
And I can’t help but imagine the little face that would have sat opposite me as we tucked into a burger, the sparkle in your eyes as you slurped down your favourite milkshake, your excited chatter at having six long weeks of Summer ahead. I can’t help but wonder whether you would be tall or short, sturdy or slender, whether your hair would be dark or fair, your eyes blue or brown, or perhaps something entirely different.
Today, and every day, I will always wonder who you would have been.
And that’s always going to be the hardest part about losing you, to go through life, reaching one milestone after another that you never had the chance to meet. The big days, the small days, the ordinary moments in between; a hundred different ways, a thousand different days, a million different moments that we never had, will never know. No matter how many years pass, that is always going to hurt
Today I seek comfort in my memories, in those wonderful summer months when you kicked inside my belly, when we were blissfully unaware of what lay ahead, when bad things happened to other people and all babies were born pink and rosy, their eyes wide open and screaming at the top of their lungs
I seek comfort in your siblings and the ways in which they carry you though the years, in the stories they tell, the games that they play, every moment we share, you are there.
When I look into their eyes, the three year old boy you would have become, the teenager you would be fast approaching, the same button nose, rosebud lips, the same long fingers and toes, you are there.
When I hear their laughter, when I hold them close, when they shower me with hugs and kisses and I love you’s, when we talk about the brother whom they never met, but they know, with every beat of their hearts, you are there.
When a ladybird landed on my hand this morning at your graveside, when a butterfly flew in through the car window this afternoon, when the clouds parted and a rainbow shone this evening, I know, more than ever, you are there.
As Megan told me just yesterday, “He’s still here Mummy, you just can’t see him anymore.”
Joseph, you are so loved, so desperately missed, and so utterly precious to so many people.
Happy 11th Birthday gorgeous boy,
Love you all the stars in the sky,
Kisses on the wind,