Today is Emma's birthday. It’s her day, my youngest daughter. Fifteen on the 15th. Her golden birthday. Driver’s permit. Freshman year of high school. A full-fledged teen. My thoughts slip back to her birth, two weeks early but full of life. Beautiful. Dark eyes that seemed to peer to the depths of my soul. Emma completed our blended family that day, belonging to each of us. 

I think, too, of the last time she heard us sing happy birthday. She was five. My sweet girl died in a fire that destroyed our home almost ten years ago. (read that story here)

Ten years. I’ve struggled with this day every single year. How do you celebrate someone’s birthday who is no longer alive? Who no longer breathes and moves and grows? How do you sing happy birthday with no one to blow out the candles?

Dear Me at 33,

Hello, sweet one. It’s me, at 43. Ten years and I’ve got to tell you it’s been, well, tough to say the least. There’s a part of me that wants to warn you what’s to come, but I’m quite sure you wouldn't believe me, even if I could.

But if I could somehow prepare you, offer words of encouragement, if I were somehow able to reach through time and send this letter, like in the movie The Lake House, here is what I would say.