Today is my husband’s 31st birthday. Today I should be celebrating with him, baking him a cake, giving him a handmade 40th birthday card like I did last year because I know it irritates him that I never let him forget that he is 18 months older than me. Today we should have gone out for a meal with his family after a long hard day at work and afterwards I should give him whatever present I had decided to make for him this year. Today we should be talking about what we will do next year, and perhaps the year after, because we should both still be assuming that we will spend the rest of our lives together, happily married and raising a beautiful family.
Instead, today I asked for the day off of work and drove to the funeral director’s to pick up my husband’s ashes, which have been stored there since he was cremated shortly after passing away at the age of 30. Today, instead of cuddling up to my husband on the sofa, I cuddled up to the only physical piece of him that is left as I carried his ashes to my car and collapsed in tears in the parking lot behind the house that we had once shared in Bicester, now inhabited by another happy couple who are perhaps young and in love and believe that they will get to spend together forever, just like we once did. I hope that they are right, but I hate that we were so very wrong about our future. I hate that my husband is forever 30 years old, forever so young and so very beautiful. I hate that my husband will never have the opportunity to be a father and I think of what an amazing father he would have been. I hate that there is no cake this year, and no celebrating to be done, for I cannot push the grief far enough aside to find any happiness at all today. Today the grief has overwhelmed me and I feel as if I am drowning in my sorrows.
I have cried almost all of today. I have pictured the celebration that we would have had if Terry had lived to be 31 years old and I weep for all of the future birthdays that I will be forced to celebrate without him, while also hoping that I will one day be able to celebrate his birthday again. I hate that his birthday reminds me of everything that I have lost and it crumbles my heart into such tiny pieces that it feels like it can never be put back together again.
I drove Terry – securely buckled into the passenger seat (safety first, my boy scout) – to his sister’s farm where we mixed some of his ashes in with a Norwegian Acer tree as a family. His sister poured some sloe gin – Terry’s favourite – at the base of the tree, so he couldn’t be any happier. This is the result:
When he blooms, Terry’s tree will look like this:
Terry’s tree will be a beautiful place to go and to remember him for years to come, something that I know that we will all appreciate. After the tree was planted, we drove to a local pub and had a delicious lunch. Terry had never been to this pub and with every bite I wished that I could bring him there, as he would have loved it. I ordered a pint of Terry’s favourite beer and we toasted to him. His mother helped his nephew to sing Happy Birthday to Uncle T. Throughout all of this all I could feel was his absence, which overwhelmed the presence of everyone else and I was so very sad for Terry, missing out on so many things. My sadness often alternates between being sad for myself at surviving Terry and sadness for Terry and everything that he will miss out on, having left us so young. Today the combination of the both was very powerful and it has been a difficult day, to say the least.
Thank you to all of you who have sent kind words and messages, the warm wishes are of some comfort on this most difficult of days. I ask that tonight you pour yourself a drink and raise a glass to my husband, who is unable to celebrate with us this year. May his spirit and his zest for life encourage you to live your life to the fullest each and every day and may his sudden and tragic death remind you of how fragile this life is.
Happy birthday, my gorgeous man. I hope that you are happy and at peace and I hope that if you see me crying today you know that it is only because I love you so very much. I hope that in heaven my grandma can bake you the chocolate chip cooke recipe that she passed on to me as a girl and that you love hers as much as you loved mine. My gift to you is to try and live my life in a way that will honour you and make you proud. I love you so much, my darling. xxx