Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy birthday sweetheart. An open letter

Today is Kevin's 56th birthday. I suppose some would suggest I should say "It would have been his 56th birthday," but I disagree. It still is the 56th anniversary of his birth. He isn't here bodily to celebrate it, but I am. His kids are. Others who love him are. So, it is his 56th birthday.

This is the first Kevin's birthday that we are observing without him. Later on today his kids and I are going to grill some salmon and drink a toast, reminding ourselves and the world that he is loved. Death doesn't stop love. The observance will hurt, I'm sure. But that's okay. That won't stop the love either. Frankly, I'm grateful for the pain because it means the love is still that strong.

A few weeks after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, one of the medical personnel asked Kevin why he was so intent on chemo, even knowing the cancer was advanced and treatment would be trying. He wryly replied, "I'm 55 years old. I'd like to make 56." I remember thinking, and possibly even saying, "Honey, that's only a few months away. You'll make it."

I was wrong.

Today is not only Kevin's 56th birthday, it marks three months to the day since he died. It's been a hard three months. That's an understatement. But as much as I have tried, I can't stop time. I can't undo what has happened. So I grieve and I live.  I know he wants me to keep going, so I do.

I write to Kevin every day, often several times a day, so in lieu of a gift or a card, here is a letter to my husband, on this, his 56th birthday. You can read it in his stead. Thanks.

Dear Kevin,

I'm not sure what else to say. Dear, beloved Kevin. My love, my heart. I miss you, but you know that. I love you, but you know that, too.

Today is your birthday. Do you remember, last year, when we celebrated by grilling steaks, drinking a bottle of wine and sitting on the porch until the bugs were too bad to bear? I think we talked about the year that had passed, how much had changed. Changing jobs, moving from Boston to KC, getting married. You know, little things like that. 

Little did we know what was coming. Talk about change.

I don't want to dwell on it. It sucked. It was unfair and brutal. You know that, too. And I write to you enough about how much I miss you, how much I hate what has happened.

Here is what I want to say, on your 56th birthday. 

I am so glad you were born. I am so glad, so grateful that you had your mom, your sister, your grandparents, all of those people who helped you became the man I love. I am so glad your kids are the amazing people they are. I am so glad you and I had 15 really good years together and even those last few desperate months. Even those months had elements of good, because we were together, because it only underscored the love.

Kevin, if someone were to travel back in time and tell me that this relationship would eventually lead to the worst pain and grief I could imagine and beyond, I would still say yes. 
I would still lean against you at that conference all those years ago. 
I would still make the hard decision to learn how to be a stepmother and make mistake after mistake after mistake and fear I was getting it all wrong
I would still love you fiercely, with every iota of my being, even knowing I would have to watch you feel pain, watch you die and be unable to stop it, even knowing I would be left behind to manage without you.

I do not regret any moment of us. You are the best thing that could have happened to me and you did.

Thank you. I love you. You are still the star in my sky, the voice I long for, the touch I crave. Happy birthday, sweetheart. I'm so glad you came into this world. 


(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Beautiful Laura. I had tears in my eyes after reading your letter. How wonderful it was to have 15 years of "True Love" I hope you and the kids have a wonderful day celebrating Kevin.

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  2. Thinking of you guys today and sending love your way.

  3. Laura, I am a month behind you in this painful widow journey. I cry with you at every entry here, but I also remember - and that is never bad. The love my sweetheart and I shared, will be forever in my heart. I understand, and I wish I didn't...

  4. I hear him saying that. I reached 56 as a personal milestone in my own life (almost a decade ago) and I wish Kevin had been able to do the same.

  5. Crying in the Bull Run Coffee Bar, grieving that I cannot take away your pain - I know no one can - while at the same time understanding what you understand, that it must be lived through, not gone round, because you express it with such exquisite accuracy. I wish I had known him. Thank you for sharing your love with Kevin, and with us.

  6. A beautiful letter, and full of love. I know that you were loved just as fiercely and just as totally by Kevin, and I just want to hug you and tell you that we also love you very much. You guys have a beautiful supportive relationship and the closeness that you share is something we all aim to have with our own loved ones.

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