Annabel and I are on a little trip, just the two of us. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be away over Maddie’s birthday, but Mike pointed out that we do our best to make November 11 a fun day for the kids. As you know, we don’t mess around in our family when it comes to birthday celebrations.

This is the first year where I’ve noticed Annabel is mourning Maddie. Well, not exactly Maddie herself, but the idea of her. She’s realizing what she’s missing out on and she’s very sad about it. She often wonders what it would be like to have a sister, especially one who is older. I’ve reminded her that she has an amazing best friend, and friends are the sisters we choose. That’s made her happy, and she’s even started referring to her friend as her “best friend sister friend.”

I am very grateful that Annabel is at the point now where she has more tools to express how she’s feeling. She’s always been pretty good about vocalizing her thoughts, but she spends a lot of time drawing her feelings. She has also written Maddie a few letters, and when she shares them with me I can’t help but smile over the messy printing and phonetically spelled words. Yesterday she said to me, “I wonder what Maddie would wish for if she could make the biggest wish ever!” I wonder that, too.

Maddie’s birthday never gets easier. I’m usually in a weird state of dread the moment the calendar flips to November, and I always wake up on November 12th with a mix of relief and guilt — relief that I made it through another birthday, and guilt for feeling relieved. This year…I am waking up today already emotionally and physically exhausted. This week has been incredibly stressful and fraught for so many, and I am numb. But I’m still going to make this a fun day for my Annie, because she deserves it. And I know that even though I feel like I don’t have any tears left, they’ll find me at some point tonight, after Annie is asleep with a belly full of creme puffs.

Even though I tell Annie that there’s no way to bring her sister back, I’ll never stop wishing I’m wrong. I will never stop wishing we were throwing her a big ninth birthday bash with all of her third grade friends. I’ll never stop wishing that she is down the hall, yelling at James to stop jumping on her bed, or giggling with Annie about some sisterly secret. I’ll never stop wishing that I could wrap my arms around her today and every day. I’ll never stop loving her.

Happy birthday my sweet Madeline. I love you forever.

birthday cake dive