Charlie with DonutI wonder what you would look like? Would your giggle be the same? The way you wear your hair, would it be shagging like the other boys or parted to the side like I always brushed it? Would you still love superheroes and play soccer just as you did when you were five? Or would you have moved on to video games,  basketball, or another sport? Would this be the birthday you would stop wanting the infamous donut cake? Or would you still let me buy it, just to make me happy? Would we have a big party with all your school friends or just the couple of playmates that were always dearest to you?

There are so many questions, and wonders I have that will never be answered. And this, as your mother, is so very hard for me. 

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of emotions. We have so much to be grateful for because of you. Your beautiful life has touched others through your foundation — helped grieving families, supported parents in recovery, given financial aid to families whose children are receiving cancer treatments, provided life-saving heart surgeries to children in other countries, and given hope to families living in poverty in Africa. And yet, the ache I have to hold you, to see you, and to mother you not only persists but grows stronger. As time passes, I miss you more.  

I have to admit, it’s hard to balance the gratefulness of being your mother and the sadness of forever grieving your loss. Every time I see a picture of you or recall a memory, my heart warms — knowing how fortunate we were to hold you and have you for those 5 amazing years and the impact your life had on mine. But as I watch your friends grow — their last years in elementary school, fostering old friendships and new ones and having experiences you will never have, I am crushed with a weight of sadness. It’s a jealousy that is hard for me to articulate. I want desperately to see you grow up, just as your friends do. 

But I hope you know that when the sadness seems to overtake the joy, I find you to bring me back. You, your heart, and everything your life has sparked brings me back into balance. It’s the love — your love that reminds me that even though I can’t see you grow as I so desperately want — your work continues to grow around us.

And even though I have so many unanswered questions about who you would be or what you would look like now, I know there is one thing I will never have to wonder about. Your heart — the way you love will always stay the same, openly and unconditionally. I know in that way, you would still be just like the Charlie you were at 5 years old, even at age 11. And for that, I will forever be grateful.

So happy birthday, my beautiful firstborn son! We love you more as the days pass and hold you tight. Thank you for all the blessings you have brought to our lives.