I thought I wouldn’t feel anything today.
I thought maybe, just this once, it wouldn’t hurt, or make me cry, or give me that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was right, until I opened Facebook to a video of you laughing, making jokes, being the class clown you once were, with a caption written by your mother wishing you a happy 23rd birthday.
I was wrong. Wrong to think I could’ve felt “fine” or “normal” or “nothing.” What is feeling nothing anyway?
This was the first time I had seen your face in a while. I’ve kept your picture hidden, safely tucked away but still hidden, since I moved to LA, for fear of feeling too much if I stared at it for too long, like I used to. I didn’t have to listen to the video, I can still picture the sound of your voice. I can still hear it as if you were sitting in the room right next to me. I still remember our last phone conversation, eight years ago on this exact day. I remember you so clearly, but sometimes I'm caught off guard when I see or hear something that reminds me of you and the painful truth of your existence. Tears welled up in the back of my eyes while watching that video, and even through that slight pinch of emotion, I still smiled at the thought of who you were, and who I like to imagine you would be today. Today, on your 23rd birthday.
So, happy birthday you sweet, brown eyed boy. I still miss you and I still feel the pain of losing you. I still laugh at memories of you, and I still love you very dearly, the way I knew I always would. I still feel joy when I think of your smile, and when I think of the way you squeezed my hand that day because you were nervous. I still thank you for leaving me with these beautiful memories and the lessons that came with grief. I still think of you when I don’t know where to go, and I look to what you might’ve said to me in time of struggle or self doubt. I still think of you when I choose fearlessness, and I still think of you when I remind myself to try just a little harder to be more lighthearted. I think of you when I breathe moments in and choose to live fully and with presence. I still think of you through it all. And though there may be a part of me that still feels like it’s missing, that piece of me that will forever miss you and grieve for you, I will choose today to honor you, live through you, fearlessly, fully, and lightheartedly the way you once did. I will buy flowers for you, eat a little piece of cake for you, drink a glass of champagne for you, and dance in my living room for you.
I will look for the glimpse of light, flaring through the clouds, because I know it's you winking at me, with that smirk of yours, reminding me that you never really left. I will look for the pink strokes of color, painted in the sky, because I know it’s you, dancing freely and laughing simply out of joy, all the while making a beautiful mess of heaven.