It was hot and muggy the day that you left us, but I only remember feeling cold. I know that I was in shock, but the chill I felt seemed fitting. I was sure in those first raw moments of despair that, without you, I’d never know warmth or light again.
Everything seemed so senseless. I remember talking to family that night, but the words had no meaning. I tried to be brave, to smile through the tears, but my feelings were hollow. Blackness was everywhere, and all that was good in this world seemingly had vanished into the depths of grief. How could I continue to live when you – the best part of me – were gone?
I had to remind myself to breathe in and out…minute by minute, hour by hour, until I made it through another day without you. Somehow those days stretched to months and then years. Nine of them, as of today. And, along the way, the light began to shine through the darkness, and I began to feel again.
I used to tell people that I segmented my life into three linear sections: the time before you were born, the time we had you with us, and the time after you died. Today, I realized that I have had it entirely wrong.
All of the experiences and choices in my life lead to your birth. Your life, while short, changed the trajectory of mine. And, your death has been at the center of everything since. My life isn’t a straight line, moving forward and farther away from you. It’s more like a tree trunk, made of concentric rings that build off of one another, encircling and protecting its core.
You are at my core.
I imagine the ring made by your death is wide and dark. And, while your father and I were living in that place of grief, it felt all-encompassing and unending. But, even the coldest season eventually fades. And, while we didn’t think it was possible, our family continued to grow. I envision lighter rings for the births of your little sister and brother, for milestones met and laughter rediscovered.
We have known great loss, but because of you, we have also experienced great joy. And, because of you, we’ve learned that it’s possible to have those feelings simultaneously. Today, your angel day, is the first day of a new summer camp for your brother and sister. They were so excited and nervous for their new adventure this morning. I worked very hard to keep my composure for them, then sobbed in the car after I dropped them off. I kept thinking how different this day is to June 4, 2009. I felt the sun on my face, as hot tears ran down my cheeks, and I remembered the chill of the ICU. I cried for how unfair it is that you weren’t here with us. And then, a dragonfly flew by, hovering in front of my windshield, and I understood that you were.
Another milestone, another ring around the trunk. You remain at the center of everything. You are with us, and we are with you. The impression you left in the world remains, as does your place on our family tree. Forever and always.
I love you, Andy.