Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Your 3rd Death Anniversary

Dear Noah:

Your third death anniversary is full of simple moments and magical thinking. We get donuts from your favorite shop, where you once begged fresh ones in the middle of the night when they were still baking. We look through digital photos so Dad can post one on Facebook in your memory. I pick an album at random—1995—and immerse myself in your four-year-old cuteness. I’m struck by your soft, tentative gesture and pensive expression looking down at a baby tortoise, much as you looked years later holding a cat. You gravitated instinctively to animals, contemplated and communed with them.

So when a friend tells me she believes our souls live on in others, I wonder if others can mean animals. And if that’s what was happening in the last photo we have of you when you smiled in spite of everything as you looked down at our new dog. An uncanny gold light rises from your shoulders as if you’d been blessed. Was that the moment when you gave over your spirit to Lobo, knowing he’d be our joy and solace after your death?

We bring jasmine and roses to lighten your stone at the Children’s Memorial Garden. Your ex- girlfriend joins us, weeping quietly, handing us a beautiful card. We sit with her and another friend at a cafĂ© in the old neighborhood, lingering on a sunny afternoon. There’s a toast to you and reminisces; no one at this table is afraid to say your name. Later, we stroll through a native garden just coming awake with lupine and poppies. We feel soothed; the day isn’t as hard as we feared.

The next morning, we’re surprised and touched by a Facebook post from your brother, who’s traveling in Nepal. His gloved hand holds up your driver’s license in front of snowy Himalayan peaks; he writes, “remembering Noah in a place he would have loved.” 

We have a new custom to ease ourselves back into life after marking your death: a trip to that little beach town you showed us that we’ve come to love. We slow down, breathe deep, fill ourselves with the sea’s churning presence. We watch Lobo frolic and bound after sandpipers. I write hearts in the sand and gaze out at the water, hoping for a glimmer of you. 

In another photo from your teenage years, you’re sitting in the breakfast nook, grimacing as you stretch your long arms out as wide as you can to touch both walls; you nearly do. I picture you laughing at me now with my mystical wish. You stretch your arms out impossibly wide over the ocean, hovering there, as if to touch the ends of it; “See, Mom, I’m here, OK?” 

“We can always dream,” Dad says. “What have we got to lose?”

You are in your dog’s foolish heart. You are in the vastness of things I’ll never understand. 

Each year two days after your anniversary comes the spring equinox. I must remember that. 



  1. My son took his life the last day of Winter, March 19th, five years ago. And every year when March comes around - I wonder what his life might have been, where he'd be working, what he'd be doing, etc.

    I am sorry, so very sorry, for the loss of your son, Noah.


    1. Hello Mark,
      I'm very sorry for the loss of your son. I will think of you on the death anniversary that our sons share. It seems March 19 and the days and weeks around it will never be the same. I hope you are finding some peace.

  2. Thank you for sharing beautiful words of profound loss and small comforts. I don't presume to understand the depths of your grief, but I continue to travel the path alongside you, guided by your written markers--recollections (sad and joyous) and deep reflections.

    Love and peace to you both,

  3. As I approach the second anniversary of my son Paul's death, I find inspiration in your words. I am fortunate to have his dog with me and I can surely feel his spirit in Rudy which at times brings me comfort. Our sons would want us to carry on, be happy and at peace. One small step, one day at a time... praying for all mothers who have suffered this terrible loss.

    1. Hi Jean,
      I am so very sorry for your loss of your son Paul. How wonderful that you have his dog to remind you of better times! Take heart from that and take good care of yourself.