The nights are hard, but the nights before big days are hardest. Tonight I have put a child to bed excited to dream her last dreams as a seven year old: tomorrow she will wake for the first time as an eight. Many times tomorrow she will miss him here, but the excitement and novelty of a birthday will outride her emotional anxieties. There will be presents and pancakes, school giggles and attention. There is comfort in her joy, but beside there is a huge, yawning void, a space no ribbons can fill, a hole of the saddest kind growing each year in depth and intensity. She was five when he died and that was three years ago.
I stare into this hole alone; I cannot delight in these days. It is all too sad. He is not here to share with me the joy in our daughter being eight and everything that is eight. She is so different to the girl she was the last time he saw her and yet she is exactly the same. She is not mine, she is ours, and he is ours, yet he isn’t. Birthdays leave me numb, grateful for the rhythm of the routine, I fall in with the beat and I breathe and I move, I do everything in my power to make her feel as special as she is. I know how lucky we are to have her, this creation of ours, this extraordinary child and her extraordinary sister. I know she will wish on her birthday candles for her dad to come back. Will she still wish as hard as the magic in childhood fades with age? I feel the longing to have him here with us redouble each year.
Now I assemble the presents (drum pads, a Venus fly trap), and prepare for the pancakes (Nutella of course, and strawberries). But also now I share my sorrow with the darkness of this rainy night and say Keith, my love: I wish you were here.