Today would have been your 24th birthday. If life was fair, you'd be out of college, probably living with a couple of your friends, working at a job or two, and coming over once or twice a week for dinner. You'd say it's because you missed us but more likely it would be to do your laundry and raid my pantry for oatmeal creme pies and wheat thins. And I wouldn't mind a bit.
But here we are, without you. And we will celebrate your birthday as we have the last six years - we take out our memories of you and open our hearts to the pain. We hope that the heartache has lessened since the last time, but it probably hasn't. We work through the tears to the happiness you brought us, but getting there is tough. We have to deal with the reality that you aren't here, you aren't coming back, and the reasons you and Kelli are dead are so unfair it makes us angry. We have to push through that anger and remind ourselves that your deaths are teaching others to change behavior and hopefully save lives. We hope that it's helping us heal. It doesn't make it suck any less, though.
We think about your past birthdays and smile. We remember your sleepover party where you wanted to camp in the backyard, and I set the tent up wrong. We remember the year you didn't get your favorite cake until the next day because Kruta's was closed on Mondays. We remember the year you almost knocked your cake off the table because your birthday card contained a ticket to the Dave Matthews concert. We remember your first birthday party where you were afraid of the balloons.
We also remember you, not just on your birthday, but how you were every day. Your smile, your laugh, your sarcasm, your three-day bad moods. We can laugh about the bad times and cry over the good times.
We will come visit you today, driving with the windows down, the sunroof open and Ludacris blasting on the radio. We hope it will blow our troubles away, and for a little while maybe it will.
Happy birthday Peach.