This is how I’ve started each letter in my journal to you for over ten years now. Happy 10th birthday today Joshua.
January 17, 2003. Ten years. A time for a baby to grow into a youth. A time for a woman to grow gray, to lose loved ones, to know total despair–and total bliss.
Here is my first letter to you as a newborn.
“My Dearest Joshua.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t like you much when you were inside me. In that waiting place I couldn’t attach to this being who stole my body. I had no idea you would give me back in love a thousand times what you took away.
But oh, how I knew! The moment you slid into the world and were placed on my chest you were the sweetest love I’ve ever known. In that instant, the dark void you filled in me for nine months breathed a fiery life. I knew then why I detached from you as you grew inside me, because once I met you I would know a love so deep it would scare me in its intensity. And it has–with a ferocious grip.
Forgive me sweet boy for not loving you sooner. You are all things beautiful to me. Light shines out of you with luminescence. So bright you are, full of shimmer and glow.
In times past, I have been held by blazing sunsets slipping over misty fields. My heart has leapt under a starry night’s embrace. I’ve caught the last moments of summer as geese fly overhead on chilly evenings and the bullfrogs go quiet. I have seen these things that caught my heart in pure beauty.
If I never see any of this again I’ll be at peace. For I look at you and see all these things and more. And so in return, I give you my heart–the outpouring of my heart. Take it, for it is yours. To shape and mold and break a bit. But it will always be yours and you shall never be without love.
May you grow to be a self-confident man with a sense of adventure. May you know great love. May you always be kind to others. May you not be crippled by past events but become stronger in spirit. May you be a curious spirit that finds yourself on great paths.
If I do nothing else in life, I know I’ve experienced God’s pure love through you and that I loved you the best I ever could with every part of my soul. Every day I am moved by love.
Every breath I have to give, every heartbeat that moves me along–is yours.
Live in beauty and love, my sweet Joshua.”
From that first letter to now, a decade later, I’ve written you dozens of times.
I’ve cried to you over the terrible losses for families who suffered horrible tragedy with Hurricane Katrina. Of people dying in the heat, violating one another, killing one another. I wondered about the dark place that resides in me. Would I kill someone to get water for my child? Would I let another child die so you could live? I don’t know. I hope I never have to.
I despaired in my letters to you when bad economic times hit our country and the American landscape changed–forever. Every sad story I read hung heavy on me as we struggled too–about families torn apart through poverty, bankruptcy, layoffs, and divorce. And I realized we were the lucky ones. All I had in the world was here. We still had warm beds to sleep in, food on the table, family, and friends–and above all, love.
And when I spent a year watching my mother slowly fade away from cancer, you were the hope that kept me going. I cared for her as a child then I returned home to care for you–my child. You helped fill that terrible loss that changes a daughter forever. I struggled to define the person I was without my mother beside me, while I had to be a mother beside you.
I could never again share the wonders of you with my mom. You stared at a family photo with her and told me “Mom, it doesn’t feel like we’re a family anymore with Grammy gone. She was such a big part of our life and now there is only a little bit left.” And I found that a little bit left can grow again.
Trying to help you understand the world is complex as I don’t quite understand it myself. In the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting you turned off the news and escaped in a book to erase the thoughts in your head about it. You said “That man not only took away their dreams, but the dreams of their loved ones too.”
You are so curious about so much and eager to tell me not to squelch your curiosity. You once said you believed “Heaven was real until they invented planes, because then the planes would poke through the clouds and disturb the angels.”
At three I asked you why you must always ask “Why?” about everything. You said, “Because people have faces!” Funny, but true in a way. We all have a different face with a different story behind it that begs to be told. I wonder what your story will be.
Someday my letters will pass to you, but not yet. I fill my journal with them as you enter a new decade. You are still defining yourself and this means separating from me.
I don’t know yet who you are, this person you are becoming.
I can’t wait to see.
Love, your Mommy
Do you write a journal to your child? Or another loved one? Has it helped you understand and deal with events in your life?