When you were alive I often thought about all of the birthday parties your mother and I would throw for you as you grew up. Out of all your birthdays-to-be, Maddie, there were two that stood out as having the potential to be especially awesome.

One would have been your birthday in 2025. This one excited me not only because you would be turning eighteen (a big deal), but because less than a month later I would turn the Big 5-0. I imagined an incredible joint birthday (perhaps unrealistically considering the likelihood a teenage girl would share her big day), or a family trip to Hawaii to celebrate. Either way, Maddie Moo, it would have been great.

Your other especially exciting birthday-to-be would have been tomorrow. Imagine… an 11-11-11 birthday. How cool is that? After next year’s 12-12-12, no one will have a birthday as cool as yours for a century. And you would have been four too… finally old enough to really appreciate and remember your birthday.

Sadly, neither of those days will come to pass for us as I imagined they would. Tomorrow, instead of celebrating with you, I will spend the day without you, reflecting on what your life meant to me.

It has been an incredibly hard two and a half years since you left this world, Maddie.  Sometimes, before you passed, my own mortality would cross my mind. “Forty years?” I would fret. “Is it possible I only have forty more years?” But nowadays I never worry about my own mortality. In fact, on my darkest days, I often find myself thinking, “Forty more years? How will I ever make it through forty more years?”

That’s not to say that I haven’t found joy. Your little sister has been a tremendous light for your mother and me, and I know you would love her too.  You share the same twinkle in your eyes when something excites you, a wonderful shared trait that gives me another motivation to make your sister happy as it allows me to see you again – if only for a second.

I try not to look at photos of you too often because it can make me very sad, but I spent a long time doing so today and I cried and smiled the whole time. Each photo brought back memories of our life together, and I felt what I felt then – a big, huge, crushing love for you.

Your arrival in this world opened me up to seeing just how amazing life could be; how much love could fill one person’s heart. It was as if the world changed from black and white to color.  And while things turned back to black and white after you passed, the experience of having seen color while you were here is what has made it possible for color to creep back into my life even after I thought it never could.

So tomorrow I will try not to be sad. Instead I will focus on celebrating the day you brought color into my life. And while 11/11/11 won’t be as joyous as I had imagined when you were alive, there will be joy. Because it will be a day about you.

Happy birthday, Chicken Muffin Love Bear. Daddy loves you forever and ever.

To celebrate Maddie on her birthday and support Friends of Maddie, please consider buying “You Are The One.”