To Parker, on your 19th birthday
A letter I wish you could read.
Is it weird that I’m writing you a letter on your 19th birthday when it’s been two years since you passed on to the next life?
I guess it doesn’t feel weird to me because if I’m honest, this letter isn’t really just for you. I’m writing this for anyone who will read this wondering how we are doing as we cope with your death, and also for those still processing their grief in the wake of losing you.
(The other reason it doesn’t feel weird is because I talk to you quite a bit in my everyday life. I don’t do it thinking that you hear me, but sometimes I like to pretend like I’m sharing a joke or telling you something whenever the thought occurs to me. So in a sense, writing this letter to you is just continuing that conversation that goes on in my head.)
So what is there to say? So, so much.
I’m not going to start off by telling you I love you, because you already know that and I told you that a bunch while you were here. I do love you and I do miss you a ton. Same goes for mom, Kylie, and about twenty-six or twenty-seven other people. Possibly thirty, but let’s not go crazy.
Okay, okay, that was a joke, of course. (There are A LOT of people who love and miss you.) I bet that joke would have made you laugh, though. Or even better, it would have made you smile and make that sound that you used to make when I would say something you thought was funny, but you didn’t want to laugh, so you would make that “whaa” sound while smirking.
I make that sound even still, you know. When something hits me as funny that I think you would have also laughed at, I make that “whaa” sound as if it were you doing it. It always makes me smile to remember those moments we had. I love making people laugh, and you were one of my favorite people to make laugh because you had such a great sense of humor that it felt like an achievement.
What else, other than jokes, do I miss sharing with you? For sure, it would be highlights of awesome plays during sporting events. When we visited your gravesite last month on the second anniversary of your passing, I shared with family how I just wish I could pause the game and call you into the room like I used to do to show you a great play. I loved sharing those moments with you. I knew you appreciated them like I did, and I love that we shared that.
Speaking of sports … this is kind of random, but a couple weeks ago I spent an unpleasant half hour in the dentist chair. I was numbed up, but I still wanted to get away in my head while they drilled my tooth into a nub for a crown. So I thought of us playing football in the backyard … and in the basement … and playing basketball in the basement … and playing soccer in the basement … and playing catch with a tennis ball in the basement … and playing catch with a hardball in the yard and in the driveway and in the street. I loved cherishing those memories and it made those fifteen minutes of drilling fly by, so thanks for helping me get through that.
What have you missed the last two years other than a pandemic?
Kylie is getting married in May! We’re so excited for her, and I know you would be, too. I hate that you and Luke will never get to be brothers-in-law because I think that would have been the best. Kylie makes us so proud every day. She is so beautiful, responsible, thoughtful, and smart. (You made us so proud too, you know. I love bragging about you when I tell people about your life.) It’s the same with Kylie. It’s such a joy to be her dad and we can’t wait for this next season of her life with Luke. Every day she is still being a great sister to you by the way she lives, honoring the most important things in life in every way.
(Kylie and Parker, summer 2019)
Your mom continues to crush it helping us keep it together and also running the pretzel stores. That pandemic I mentioned earlier raised the degree of difficulty for a retail food business exponentially, but she handles it all in stride and has not only helped the business survive, but thrive. She has been so strong through all of this. Not in a pretend-strong kind of way, but in a true strength way. She leans on her amazing friends, she praises God in the good times and hard times, and she finds little ways to honor you all the time. You probably wouldn’t be surprised, because I know you never doubted how great a mom you had.
I’m doing alright, too. I’m mostly happy on most days, but you are never far from my mind. I truly believe that all of the prayers for us have protected me from some of the deep, long-term despair that I could easily fall into. Losing you was/is so devastating. I could break down and weep in 0 to 30 seconds at any point of any day. But most days I don’t. And most days, when I think of you, it brings smiles, not tears. I thank God often for that daily miracle.
I’ve been trying to stay creative while I help out more with the pretzel stores. I’ve been doing some worship songwriting for fun and I played a song I wrote at Men’s night at our church last month. It was scary and awesome, I wish you could have been there. The song came out of a season of feeling God’s presence while grieving your loss, so I got to share about how amazing of a son you were that night, which I always love to do. I’ll probably share it with more people down the road at some point.
I also finally self-published my novel for middle-schoolers: Lake Mason and The Firestone Fires! I’ve sold a couple hundred copies of it and the reviews have been very positive. I finished the book a few months before you passed, but you didn’t get a chance to read it. I think you would have been proud of me for putting it out there whether you ever read it or not. I was either going to dedicate the book to you, or to the color yellow, but in the end I decided to go with you. (Yes, that was another dumb joke I think you would have “whaa’d” at.)
What else is new? Poppop rebuilt our deck this month, which is now amazing. I bet he would have roped you into helping him alongside Landon. We also have a hot tub now too, which I think you would have loved. Let’s see, what else? The Celtics and Eagles are mediocre right now. The Red Sox had a nice run this year, but came up short. I played a lot of golf this year, but failed to shoot even par again. Maybe next year.
I miss you on the golf course so much. The way you picked up the game and really got into it was a season of life I will never forget. Seeing other dads and sons playing golf together is so bittersweet for me. It crushes me but also makes me smile. Selfishly, I want to be able to have that again. But then I remember that I did have it for a time, and I’m glad others can have it, too.
I could keep rambling, but I should probably wrap this up.
If this was an actual communication that you were going to read, I would write for hours and hours because interacting with you is something I miss so much. We all miss it. We wish we could hug you, laugh with you, tell stories to you, hear your stories, watch great sports plays with you, have a soak in the new hot tub with you, and celebrate your 19th birthday with you.
Losing you is something we will never move on from. We will move forward, honoring you as best we can, but we will never be the same because of how special you were. Meanwhile, the earth keeps spinning and moving around the sun and life relentlessly presses on. Some days the entire place feels insane, and other days there is more peace than I ever thought I could feel.
There is still no “new normal” for us, but we are okay, and I think you would like that we are okay. And I think you would appreciate the reasons why we are okay.
We are okay because so many people have been praying for us. We are okay because we are taking care of each other. We are okay because we know that you felt loved every second of your life. We are okay because we have a hope in a life to come. We are okay because we have amazing friends and family by our side. We are okay because we know how much you loved us and loved being kind to people while you were here with us. And we are okay because God has been a good shepherd to us through this valley of darkness.
Every one of your birthdays will be bittersweet for the rest of our lives as we lean into remembering you and wishing we could celebrate with you. This 19th birthday is no different. We cling equally to the loss we feel in your absence and the hope we have in Jesus.
You were an amazing son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew, and friend. On this, your 19th birthday, you are still so missed and so loved.
You were too sweet and kind to ever be forgotten.
Happy Birthday in heaven, P-Man.