Since Jon-Alec died, birthdays, special occasions and milestones in our lives have become challenging. It is important to celebrate these moments, but we feel the loss of Jon-Alec more deeply on those days. He should be there to celebrate with us. Birthdays are especially difficult because Jon-Alec will never have another one.
July brings the promise of good weather, beach time and my birthday. I have always loved July. Now, when June fades away and July begins, my heart becomes heavy with grief and anxiety. Jon-Alec’s birthday, August 2, arrives 16 days after mine. How can I celebrate my birthday without my boy? Why do I get to have another birthday, while he never will? On the other hand, shouldn’t we celebrate another year of living because he can’t? The days leading up to my birthday this year were hard, but I thought about Jon-Alec and what he would say to me. He would tell me that it sucked that he was gone, but that I should not stop living and celebrating life. He embraced life with gusto. He found the things that brought him joy and did them, so, on my birthday, I spent the day at the beach with Brad, Eliana, her boyfriend, and a cherished childhood friend, Maggie. Then I gathered with some dear friends for five hours of dining and conversation. I allowed myself to enjoy their company and embrace their love. I allowed grief and joy to coexist.
Presently we are on Maui, on an adventure, trying to live as Jon-Alec did. We hiked in lava fields along the coast, taking time to truly appreciate the beauty nature gifts us, stopping to shed tears because Jon-Alec should would have loved this hike. We even went snorkeling, something we have been unable to do since Jon-Alec’s death. He Faced Timed us from the dive boat days before his death, so excited to share his adventures with us. He encouraged us to get scuba certified so we could take a family diving trip together. For a long time the ocean was a scary place for us. I am not sure we will ever be able to scuba dive, but we decided to go back to snorkeling. We allowed ourselves to experience what he experienced on a smaller scale. It was breathtaking and I know he is proud of us.
As I anticipate, what would have been Jon-Alec’s 28th birthday, the grief is particularly heavy, once again. We (Brad, Eliana, my mom and I) will be back in Boulder for the first time since his 26th birthday because the pandemic kept us away. We will visit the cemetery, where he has a view of the Flat Iron mountain range he so loved. We will wear orange, hike and dine with his girlfriend and dear friends. We will celebrate Jon-Alec and who he was. Perhaps the love of his Boulder ‘family’ will envelop us, once again allowing some joy to coexist with grief.
If you haven’t done so recently, please help us honor, Jon-Alec, on what should have been his 28th birthday, by making a donation to the Jon-Alec Fund. And go on that adventure you always dreamed about. He would have!