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To my daughter on her eleventh birthday

Elli 8th birthday
Dear Elli,

We miss you. Your dad and I think about you every day. We savor those rare vivid dreams of you, where we can see, hold, and hear you again. (Those dreams can’t happen too often.) We love to talk about you.

So bitter-sweet. Every morning, the school bus that you used to ride drives past our house, reminding me of the life you once had with us. Sometimes the missing dredges up the taste and smell of the raw grief when you first left.

…stinging salt-raw eyelids

…gritty eyes that have shed every drop of moisture yet somehow summon more at each new recognition of the ways you are gone

…throbbing aching can’t-breathe sinuses

…swollen lips from the Ugly Cry

…mind-numbing exhaustion

Then I force myself to think of The Now.

Your little brother knows who you are, even though he was but a baby when you left. When he sees a picture of you, he points to it and tells anyone who will listen, “That’s my sister.” Today, he asked if you were going to come here to our house. I had to explain that you died and can’t come visit anymore. How can a 3-year-old understand death?

Elli snowsledding

Your bigger brother is very matter-of-fact about you being gone. He doesn’t understand why his sister is still processing everything. He has accepted this new reality, and is uncomfortable with dwelling on the changes.

Your little sister talks about you all the time. She asks questions about what made you sick when you were born, why you are gone, and why we started the Find a Voice Fund. Especially lately, this last one.

I think you would be pleased with the Find a Voice Fund. We are helping to purchase “talkers” like you had for other kids who can’t speak. Your brothers and sister got to meet a boy who has a new talker in your name just this week. Now they get it, what we’ve been working on.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate your birthday than to introduce your siblings to a boy like you and let them see the joy in his face when he uses his computer to talk with them.

Happy birthday, beautiful girl.

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