I wrote this letter two years ago when my sweet gone-too-soon son would’ve turned 18 years old. Instead he is forever fourteen. The letter still fits today, although I can’t fathom what it would feel like to have a 20-something college kid. There’s no place card for this. Six birthdays gone doesn’t make it any easier, just different. The pain isn’t as raw but the longing to see him, hug him, love on him is as strong as ever.

To My Son, Austin —

If you were here today, I’d wish you a Happy Birthday and tear up thinking how quickly you grew up. No more Momma’s Little Blair Bear, but a man.

If you were here today, I’d stand tiptoe to reach my arms around your neck and squeeze you back with one those famous bear hugs you were known for.

If you were here today, I’d cook all your favorite foods from breakfast to dinner. From cheesy eggs to special buttered toast all the way to shrimp and hot potato salad. We’d finish it off with a strawberry cheesecake ice cream cake.

If you were here today, I’d take hundreds of pictures, even though you’d try to look away, and we’d comment how much you’ve changed. I’d drag out the baby books and photo albums and we’d laugh about past memories.

If you were here today, Dad would have his talk with you about being a man. It would be a collection of all the mini-stories and lessons he’d of told you in previous years.

If you were here today, Noah, your little brother, would be your shadow, soaking up your company before you left again for college. Maybe you’d have a sleepover together in your room for old times, having a marathon Xbox competition. Maybe he’d have bragging rights for beating you – or for being taller than you.

If you were here today, we’d pretend to surprise you with a party. You would’ve asked to open your presents thirty-seven times and I probably would’ve caved in on a few.

If you were here today, you’d pace the floor checking the time, eventually taking your spot by the door to greet everyone as they arrived.

If you were here today, the house would be filled with your deep laughter and contagious smile. Your eyes would be sparkling, loving being surrounded by family and friends.

If you were here today, I would be weepy, sad that my baby was all grown. Already dreading sending you away again to school but trying to forget that — just for today. I’d attempt to be brave but you would’ve rested your head on my shoulders, knowing the pain I tried to hide, and wanting to take it away.

If you were here today, you’d have hugged me a dozen times, thanking me, reassuring me you won’t forget to call, telling me you love me.

If you were here today, I’d kiss your cheek and look into those brown puppy dog eyes and tell you I love you. And mean it with every fiber of my soul.

austin gulf

Happy 20th Birthday in Heaven, sweet boy. We all love and miss you so…