April 11, 2012
As you know, I write you a letter every year on your birthday. If I could, I would say all these things to you in person. But I can’t. You are no longer here, in person, to talk to. Instead, I set my words to paper, then send them into whatever great beyond your soul now inhabits. I know you hear me. I know you know what I want to say to you before I do. I know you know how important it is for me to set what I wish I could say to you to paper, and how important it is to let my words expose me, yet again, on the football field of life I believe you truly wished to run naked across one day.
Of course, I can also totally imagine you running naked across a real football field. Maybe not on your 10th birthday, but I can see you getting tipsy before you turned 30, finding a football field, and running naked across it, either on a dare or just for the liberation of it. (Hell, probably after 30 if you take after your mom as much as I think you would have!) I would have loved to see you live, to see you run naked across a football field in person. I would not have been one of those moms who scoff at such expressions of the joy of freedom, passage from “youth” to “adulthood”, or just a desire to get tipsy and run naked in the world. I would have cheered you on while I kept an eye out for cops. Had they shown up, I would have used my charm to keep you from getting arrested. You have to buck the system from time to time, right? And what’s the harm in running naked across a football field? It’s not like you’d be killing anyone, right?
Of course not. Because you are the one who was killed, and here I am, the night before your birthday, writing you yet another letter, instead of making your chocolate birthday cake with tons of icing, telling you the story of when you were born (you always loved that story), and doing my best to drive you crazy with obscure hints about what your presents could be. Instead of trying not to go crazy while dealing with a gaggle of 10-year old girls at a slumber party, I will be trying not to go crazy while I drive to visit my friend on death row here in Texas.
The one thing that has not changed, and will not in spite of your death, is that I am always going to think of what words of wisdom I could be passing on to you as you age. When your brother turned 13, I gave him a list of thirteen things loving him had taught me so far. When he turned sixteen, I added three more to his list. In spite of it all, he still teaches me about love and I felt he needed to know this, for many reasons.
You, though, you are different. It’s pretty obvious what you taught me about love in the brief time you were here to teach me. The ELLA Foundation is proof of that (hope you are enjoying your name on so many lips, my love). Maybe what is not so obvious is what you have taught me about love since you have been dead.
Ella, since your death, you have taught me that love truly does blow past all boundaries, even death. You have taught me there are powers at work in our life that we do not understand, but should respect. You have taught me I am a good woman. More importantly, you have shown me how to help others deal with the pains and traumas of their lives. Most important, you have taught me how to run naked across the football field, both to show others it’s okay to be a little insane and to show myself being a little insane won’t kill me. Most, most important, you have taught me that even if it does kill me to run naked (or your brother does end up killing me), you will be there to hug me, put your arm around my neck, and whisper to me, “Hey mama, you know I love you, right?”.
Your loss has taught me I will never truly be lost. Incapacitated, yes. Lost, no. You, and your brother, are still the stars who guide my journey. Paris taught me what love is. You showed me how love acts. I am so happy you still burn bright enough to show me the way.
So on what would have been your 10th birthday, I don’t think I’d have much to say to you in regards to a motherly talk other than, “You are amazing. You love without judgement, live with joy and hope, and I love you more than life itself. Let’s eat cake!”.
Happy birthday, Ella Lee. Mama loves you. I will eat as much junk food as I can stand, and feed the same to my friend on death row. Not the birthday I would have imagined for you, but a good way to spend the amazing day of your birth, nonetheless.
Butterfly kisses my Ella Bella. I love you.