Happy birthday, my friend. I miss you so, so very much. Today is bittersweet for me. I think about the few birthdays I got to celebrate with you. Remembering those amazing times. I wish that I had more birthdays to celebrate with you.
I distinctly remember the very first one. We were not exactly best friends at that point, and I have no earthly idea why I wanted to go out of my way to celebrate your birthday. I knew you wouldn’t be expecting it, but something inside me just said, do it. Go for it. Which is exactly what I did. Following that need to do something special for you. The very first cake I baked for you was chocolate.
Nathan thought it was silly. I remember him complaining that I hadn’t baked him a cake for his last birthday, and wanting to know why I was doing it for you. It wasn’t something I could explain. Just knew I needed to. My consolation was that I would bake him one for his next birthday.
The next year, we were far better friends. This created a tradition. I screwed up the first cake I made you that year, and I wasn’t happy with it. I left them in the cake pans too long after they came out of the oven. This created a weird crispy crust and I didn’t think it was good enough to give you. I baked another set of cakes. I remember complaining to L about it. His response was, just buy a boxed cake mix and make it. It’s easy.
My first thought was, oh my god, no! There’s no possible way I could get a boxed cake past you. I somehow expected you would hate that, and I would be devastated. Like you would just know I cheated by making a boxed cake. Boxed cake was simply not good enough for you. It wasn’t up to my own standards for a birthday. The second cake was a success, and I was ecstatic. It was an amazing red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I remember giving it to you with a warning that it was ugly. My decorating skills still leave a lot to be desired, even today.
Nathan and I brought it to you at work, after running to the store for a birthday balloon. Again, he thought this was ridiculous. I just laughed at him. Taking him to the store is always a chore because he is an overgrown five year old. It seriously made me giggle and created a fun memory for us. I still enjoy remembering it. He helped me pick out the balloon and we tied it to the cake box. After you were gone, I saw that you had posted a picture of it to your Instagram, and I cried.
Last year I was an absolute wreck on your birthday. You had been gone about six months at that point, and I was still trying to figure out how to heal from that devastating loss. Thinking about that fateful night. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever heal. It makes me think about the last year and a half.
A lot has happened, and most of it is amazing. Losing you was easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through. I thought I had it all together. I’ve been through enough deaths in my short time walking this planet to know how to handle it. Or at least I thought I did. Yours was the worst. It was unexpected. I’ve never lost anyone to the same manner of death as yours. I sincerely hope I never do again because I’m really not sure I’m strong enough to withstand another one.
Remembering our phone call the night before when you invited me over, I told my gym partner that I wasn’t going to be there the following morning. He looked instantly alarmed. At that moment, I laughed at that response and said, it’s nothing. I’m simply spending my evening and morning with a great friend. No need to worry, and that I would see him again Monday morning as usual. Looking back now, maybe he sensed something that I didn’t. That things would never be the same again after that fateful night. I don’t know. I’ve always wondered about that.
During the time you’ve been gone has certainly been interesting. I see how much you being gone has changed many lives. You died, and you left me with this annoying little child. Who really isn’t a child. I don’t think he ever was, but he certainly looked like it. I somehow inherited him that night, and I can’t get rid of him. Lord knows I’ve tried. He just keeps coming back. Lol. I don’t know how you tolerated him. But now I’m stuck with him. I’d do anything for that annoying little turd, and it’s all your fault.
You left me with your girlfriend. She’s a character! She cracked me up, and she still does. I don’t know if you two would have ever made it into a really long term relationship, but I am certainly happy she is a part of my life. In the past, I’ve always been one who has to hold it together when I’m around other people. Never crying if anyone can see me, never talking about my feelings, or anything. She taught me it is ok to do it. I took several long drives with her, up into the hills where you and Matt would go. Or just out of town, to talk as we went. Sometimes we would go by your house.
She gave me the opportunity to confront memories, laugh, cry, and just let whatever out. It was always judgement free. The only expectation I was given was to be myself and be honest about my feelings by letting them out. I did not know her when we lost you. She was a stranger to me, and I treated her as such. Until I got to know her, and I gained a lot of respect for her.
Losing you showed me a great deal about the people around me. I still heard you in my head just hours after you were gone. I was wondering how in the world I was supposed to go home and tell Nathan what happened. What I had seen that morning. I had no idea if I could even begin to explain to him that he would never again go to work and see you. I remember you saying “just trust him with your feelings.” That is exactly what I did, and I managed to tell him what happened, and then I lost it. Completely lost it, and I was met with the most understanding compassion I’ve ever been given.
Your death also revealed some horrible people in my life. People who were jealous of my need to grieve. These were the people that I never expected to hurt me even deeper than your death alone. But in that, I was able to find my voice again. I didn’t realize I had lost it for so long. It was time to say goodbye and eliminate them. It felt like it took me a while, but I’ve finally surrounded myself with exactly the right people.
For the longest time, I felt guilty about that fateful night. Like, could I have done something different. Would I have made a difference if I had left my house earlier to go see you? I couldn’t understand why you didn’t reach out to me this time, when you had so many times before. Why didn’t I do something different. Yet I have come to understand that it wasn’t up to me. What was meant to happen is exactly what happened. I hate that, but it is the truth.
I didn’t realize that losing you would change my life completely, and in ways I never expected. Yet, it did. Gaining and losing some people in the process wasn’t pleasant. That was something I had to come to terms with as time went on. Looking back now, all I can say is thank you. Because you gave me my life back. Through your death, I was able to surround myself with the perfect people to help me shine, and love me for exactly who I am. Finding my voice again was a huge deal.
I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I lost you. In losing you, I found myself again. Yet I would love to have you back. You knocking on my door and telling me it was all a big joke, that you’d been living in the hills all this time. Because I can see you doing exactly that. Yet, all I can say is thank you for everything you’ve given me. Both in life and in death. Your impact on my life in the few short years I knew you will last a lifetime. You are always with me, and I think about you daily. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.
I have tattooed my arm as a memorial for you. Always said my ink tells a story, and it definitely does. I kind of laugh at the fact I used to swear I would never tattoo my arms and have a visible tattoo in my lifetime. I would look “clean” with just jeans and a t-shirt on. Yet, I look at my arm and think about you all the time. You are important enough to me to put a very visible tattoo on my body. Can’t say that about many other people. None come to mind at the moment.
Over the last year and a half, I have come to realize that I am happy. I wasn’t for so long, but I didn’t know it. Or at least I didn’t understand just how deeply that unhappiness ran. I know Nathan saw it, maybe you did too. But now I am finally happy. Because through losing you, I found myself. I found a dream to follow and chase. I can hear you in my head telling me you’re proud of me. L tells me that often as well. So does Nathan, actually. I know you are still right there with me supporting everything I’m doing by chasing my dreams and goals.
Happy birthday, my friend. I miss you so much and wish we could talk again. Because I would tell you how much I appreciate you and how deeply you impacted my life. Thank you would be my start to our conversation. I can’t thank you enough for everything you did for me. You truly are an amazing friend.