Happy Birthday Justin!

Hey Pumpkin! Remember me? Ben’s mom? I know, it’s your birthday and you have better stuff to do than listen to this kooky redhead, so I’ll try not to take up too much of your time. 😉

I’ve always been able to depend on my writing skills to get me through pretty much anything. And as I sit here today searching for the right words to share with such an incredible soul on his special day, I feel so inept. So, as I turn off my brain and allow my heart to speak, here’s what it has to say: I hurt so much.

I know, not earth-shattering news, but that’s the truth.

When Ben was born and placed in my arms, the last thing I thought about was losing him. I simply assumed that he would grow up with nothing more than the average heartaches and trials that “normal life” usually brings. But in entering this world where children regularly die at very young ages, I understood that we would lose some of our friends. We’ve lost way more than I ever anticipated. Ben’s been fighting much longer than I ever thought he would. I believed that we would fight, win, and be done. But that’s never how it is, is it? Life is full of constant challenges. This world of pediatric cancer just does not give us stable ground to stand on. And the amount of loss has been staggering.

Darn it. This is about YOU, dear Justin. Not me. I can see you tapping your toe waiting for me to get off my philosophizing podium. Your life of constant challenges here on earth is done. And while so many tell me that I should celebrate you no longer being in pain or that you’re in a better place or any of those “soothing” phrases that are uttered after a stunning loss, my face contorts and cries BULL! It’s simply not okay.

I want you to know that we think of you often. Daily. I’ve noticed that my son hasn’t really embraced his Legos in the same manner as he did before you passed away. I know he’s hurting. I keep waiting for him to talk about losing you, but he’s just not ready. People keep saying he’ll be fine, but we know that’s not the case, is it? There is nothing “fine” about losing a dear friend. And “time doesn’t heal all wounds.” The sting might dissipate slightly but the fact remains that there’s still a gaping, Justin-less hole in our hearts. The silence is deafening. Nothing can ever make that better. We just learn how to navigate the loss. And right now, we’re still stumbling and banging into walls.

Geez. There I go again. I know you have Legos to build and friends to party with. You’re eleven, after all! Listening to your buddy’s mom ramble on about loss means minimal to you and I’m sure you have many more people waiting to spend time with you. But I have a favor to ask. Would you connect with all those buddies we’ve lost along the way? Let them surround you with love and celebrate the day of your birth. I can see all of you playing together. No IV’s. No mediports. No yellow puke buckets. No tears. Only joy and celebration. And if you could take a minute to encourage your fellow warrior, my son, and your friend, Benjamin. He sorely misses you. And I know he’s a little scared. Send him some encouragement, will  you? Encourage him to keep fighting. To keep being brave. To find the good in everything despite all this cruddy disease is so thoughtlessly throwing at him.

Thank you, dear, sweet Justin. And Happy Eleventh Birthday to one of the coolest Ninja’s I’ve ever known. Our lives are greater for having known you but ache severely over losing you.

We love you so very much.

Join the Conversation


  1. I read all the comments after reading your post. First of all. Dear Justin, here’s to you and your day. Please watch over Ben. We love him so. And all I can say is Ditto to all the comments. Your gift is incredible. Please keep using it. The world needs your words and your strength. Hugs dear friend!


  2. God bless you and your son. I pray for him and you everyday. I can feel your pain as a mom in your writing and you truly are an amazing writer. Hugs to you and your amazing son.


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