This is a rough week. Today is Jackie’s birthday. She should be thirty-five.

It’s hard to believe this is the second birthday we’ve celebrated without her. In so many ways, I think the second year is the hardest. In that first year after someone dies, you are so numb. It’s all about going through the motions and doing what you need to do to survive. The second year, the shock has worn off, allowing you to really feel everything. It can be overwhelming.

There are still so many ways Jackie is in my everyday life. She’s still in my speed dial. When I type a “J” in the To line of an email, her email address still pops up. Facebook suggests I tag her in almost every picture I upload, to the point of ridiculousness. When something like that happens, I want to call her and have a laugh.

Actually, I want to call her and have a laugh all the time. I wanted to call her last year when I earned a Starbucks Gold Card. She was the first person I ever knew who had one and I used to tease her about it, and I wanted to give her the opportunity to return the favor. I want to call her whenever I have good news to share, and especially when I don’t.

I want to hear more of her stories. Jackie was one of those “it could only happen to you” people, so her stories were always entertaining. But even the boring events were interesting because Jackie knew how to tell a story. Her eyes twinkled and her laugh was contagious. I miss that laugh so much.

I want to celebrate Jackie’s birthday tomorrow, but I think I am going to keep it to myself. After Madeline’s birthday, I don’t think I can handle another round of questions from Annabel. So I will take the opportunity to quietly catch James up on his Auntie Jackie. I know they would have adored each other.

I used to write Jackie’s name on this blog with an exclamation point after it, Jackie! That exclamation point symbolized exactly how Jackie lived her life. After she died, it felt like the fun had died, too. The joy in writing her name that way was gone. I know she wouldn’t want that – I know she wants all of her friends and loved ones to go on and live and do everything she can no longer do, and we’re trying. But this second year…she is just going to have to forgive me if I need to take a few moments and cry over everything she’s missing.

Heather & Jackie!