Today is your birthday. Happy Birthday, Little Ninja! Today, you would be one year old. Today, you should be strapped in a high-chair smashing cake and frosting all over yourself. Today, you should be tearing open presents bought just for you. Today, I should be marveling at how big you have gotten, how smart you are becoming, and how much of a difference one year can make. I am still doing that last one, just not in the same way as I wish I was.
I can't believe it has been a year. Three hundred and sixty five days of waking up without you, of going to bed without you, of living my life without you in it. There is something about this mile-marker that makes it seem even more real - even more final. It's not like I have lived all this time in denial, thinking it might all be a dream (although I wished it was). Every single day has been a harsh reality, even the foggy days at the beginning. But, there's something about today that solidifies everything. You are gone, saying goodbye before saying hello. Even a year later, there are still some things I can't bring myself to think about. Even a year later, hot tingles of sorrow rise in my chest and tears well in my eyes when thoughts of your beautiful face dance across my mind. And I realize, that will never change. My eyes will never fully dry when it comes to shedding tears for you, my baby girl. As the years go by, as more and more of your birthdays pass, I will never stop missing you. I will never stop aching, and I will never, ever stop loving you. .
Today, we are going to go visit your tree. Allison came down from Virginia, and your grandparents are in town too. We are going to go take a family photo next to the tree. My plan is to do this every year on your birthday - as a way to document how our family grows with you still very much a part of it. I hate that today's pictures will have an oak tree in them instead of a chubby little one year old. As I think about it, waves of sadness sweep over me, hot and thick, and I have to catch my sobs in my chest before they spill out and get everywhere. I do that a lot, you know. I work hard every day to keep my sorrow under control. I can't say it's really gotten easier. Easier is not the right word. I've just gotten better at doing it, I suppose, which is a good thing considering otherwise, I'd be a blubbering mess 24 hours a day.
I think people see me and think I'm handling things fairly well, and I have to say, that's probably very true. At first, I didn't realize how strong I was. I didn't see that quality in myself at all. All I could do was to feel the overwhelming pain of losing you. But, after arrow after arrow pierced my heart - and I didn't die - I realized just how strong I really was. What makes me strong is my love for you. A mother's love is truly the strongest force on the planet, and its power is what has held me together through all of this.
You are my firstborn. You are the one who first made me a mother, and I am so grateful for every single second I had with you. Now, as your sister kicks inside me, I remember that it was you who kicked first. It was you who nestled into my heart and prepared me for motherhood. I wish you could be here to watch our family grow. I wish your sister could play with you as she grows up. I wish so many things, to list them all would take the rest of my life. I can't even say all of the things that are in my heart because they are too big, too many, too much. Sometimes, even I am at a loss for words, little one!
I will end this letter to you with the words that will always make me think of you, "I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." Sweet dreams, my darling Kenley. Happy Birthday.