My Dearest Edward,
I don't even know where to begin. I read your last letter on our anniversary, and though I've sat down many times trying to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper in return, I could never quite bring myself to do it. I sit here now, at the start of a brand new year, and I still don't know if I should start this letter at the end or the beginning.
I still haven't told him everything. I can barely write the words here for myself, and it's been a few years.
But it's time.
There are some things I haven't done since that day. Things I'm not sure I'll ever do again.
It took me six months to sleep in our bed again, and that was only after Esme got me a new mattress, new bedding, and put a new coat of paint on the walls. Even with all that, I could still stand in our bedroom doorway and envision you and E.J. napping that afternoon. E.J. had his little hand on your chest, both of you facing one another. It reminded me of when you held him as a baby, falling asleep on the couch together.
You looked so peaceful that day. I may not have told E.J. the exact details, but somehow I think he knows. He never took a nap after school again (not since Kindergarten), and once I moved back into our bedroom, he rarely wanted to climb in my bed with me to snuggle.
I haven't cooked homemade tacos since that night. After a while, E.J. stopped asking for them; he settles for enchiladas now.
For months, whenever I went to wake up E.J. for school, I would feel a panic attack coming on. I felt like I was back in our room standing by our bed before dinner. I had called you down to eat, and when you didn't answer, I went to wake you both. I used to love watching the two of you sleep. E.J. awoke first, but you didn't stir, and somehow I knew. I just knew.
The hardest thing I've ever had to do was keep it together in front of our son. I gave him a dozen chores to distract him and keep him out of the room.
I called 911, your parents, and my parents. Dad must have called Jamie because he was the first to arrive.
I wouldn't let anyone hug or comfort me. In that moment, if someone had touched me in that moment, I would have shattered into a million pieces. And yet I couldn't cry, not like I wanted to, not like I needed to. That came later.
Jamie was a Godsend. He kept E.J. occupied and sheltered him from what was going on as best he could. I'll always be grateful for that. There are images in my head from that night I'm glad he won't remember.
I almost lost it when our son asked for you to read him his bedside story, realizing you'd never get to do that again. Ever.
He knew something was up; he didn't beg or plead. He just crawled onto my lap, and when I told him, "Not tonight, sweetheart," he asked Jamie to read to us both. I held onto our son like a life preserver, and he stroked my hand until he fell asleep.
That's when it really hit me. Neither one of us would fall asleep in your arms again. We wouldn't hear your voice . . . or hold your hand. I stayed there, scratching our son's head and letting my warm tears fall onto the back of his pajamas, trying to delay the inevitable.
When I think back on that night now, I see the rest of the evening like an old and stilted silent old movie. I can picture Jamie standing in the doorway to our bedroom, his face a mirror of my own.
Disbelief and denial.
The unrelenting questions kept circling through my head: Were you really gone? Was this really happening? Was I on my own now?
I remember opening the door over and over again: first for my parents, your parents, the EMTs, and eventually the coroner.
Some things I've blocked out but not the look on your mom's face. She was so far beyond grief-stricken; it hurt to witness it. I imagine I'd look the same way if something were ever to happen to E.J.
I don't really remember all the details from the days that followed. I just remember that Jamie took care of most of it.
Over the past few years, there have been times when I've felt truly alone. I've had to do things and make decisions without you, but nothing felt quite as daunting as telling our little boy that you were gone.
If E.J. thought it was weird that Nana and Jamie we're having breakfast at our house, he didn't seem fazed by it. I tried to steel myself for the news I had to deliver. That moment may have been the first time I felt your presence.
I sometimes wonder if E.J. could sense it too. Before I had a chance to explain anything to him that morning, he surprised me. It wouldn't be the last time.
Through a mouthful of cereal, he just blurted, "Daddy's in heaven, isn't he?"
Nana, Jamie, and I were a bit stunned. He was so brave and so strong. Our son kept talking, going on to explain how you told him all about your brain sickness and how one day it might take you away to heaven, leaving me sad. And how it was his job to keep me happy and remind me that Daddy was in heaven watching over us.
Then we found your letters. Five years of them to be opened on subsequent birthdays and anniversaries.
I think I owe you an apology. That first year, my emotions were a mess. I was so angry with you. I thought you knew this was coming despite what the doctors told me. I thought you kept it from me. I knew you were having headaches, but I didn't think we were close to the end.
It was your letters that made me realize I had failed you. We promised each other to live, to experience, to find joy and hope and love in all we did. I've read the letters hundreds of times. I've re-read your journals, and I'm grateful for all that you've left behind to help me cope. I'm still in awe of you.
How did you do it? Even in death, you protected me and cared for me. Our son . . . he's done exactly as you instructed, keeping me happy and grounded. He's a wonderful little man. He gets so excited every time he reads one of your letters.
We're going to our dock by the river on New Year's Day like we always do. We like to read your letters there. He tells me all the hopes and dreams you've written down for him. I've lost track of how many times he's responded to you at this point, but every time he does, we go to our dock, and he folds the notes into a sailboat shape and sets them afloat down the Chattahoochee.
It will be bittersweet this year knowing I won't get another birthday or anniversary letter from you. I've memorized your last written lines to me: I could write forever, but at a certain point, the words are just words. What's important is that you live and you remember, but mostly, you just live. For me."
So I guess this is my goodbye. I'll try to move on like you asked, but you're a pretty tough act to follow.
I'm really happy to know E.J. will have your words for years to come. Your dad says there are dozens more for all his major milestones in life. I'm sure E.J. will surpass all your expectations. You would be so proud, but I'll let you see for yourself. He just celebrated his first two-digit birthday, and he had so much to say . . . to you.
I miss you a lot. There's all this family here, but not you. It makes me sad. Mommy said I should write you and tell you my feelings. It's weird. I don't know what to say. Mommy said I should tell you what I'm thankful for since it's Thanksgiving and all. Mrs. Strickland made us do the same thing at school.
I'm thankful for: baseball, Grandpa, Uncle Jamie, Mommy's cooking, my best friend Marcus, my Xbox, becoming 10 years old.
I'm bored. Mom sent me to my room, and she took away my Xbox and TV. I punched this boy in my class for making fun of me for not having a dad. Mom says I can't go around hitting people because I'm almost in high school and should know better, but I was only doing what Uncle Jamie told me to do. I can hear Mom yelling at him right now. She's really mad.
I don't like him. Jamie says I need to be a man about it, but I still don't like the guy. Mom invited him to go bowling with us so I could meet him. I didn't like it. He kept trying to show me how to hold the ball and release it. I don't need his help! He tried getting on my good side or something, playing arcade games with me.
The jerkwad (who had his own bowling ball!) kept saying, "You'll love high school, buddy. You could play football like me."
One, I am not his buddy. And two, what does he know . . .
I don't care how hard he tries, I'm not going to like him.
Plus, the way he looks at Mom is creepy. She's MY mom, and he can't have her!
We won our first game of the season. Coach says I have the best arm he's seen in over twenty years. He's gonna see if he can get permission for a freshman to play on the varsity team. Can you believe it? Nana Esme cried when I told her. She's such a girl. She went through some old stuff and gave me one of your gloves. It has your initials embroidered in it: E.C. When I saw it, I told Mom that I didn't want to be E.J. anymore. I want to be called Edward like you. Mom got teary-eyed. Girls!
I miss you.
P.S. I still don't like him.
This is sorta uncomfortable, me telling you about this, but I can't talk to Mom, and I don't want Uncle Jamie to make fun of me. He might be cool and all, but he's not you. Mom says his track record with women isn't very good anyway. And I'm definitely not telling him.
I really like this girl. Her name is Angela. She's in my Spanish class at school. Her family is from Puerto Rico, so she doesn't really need the class. I like listening to her talk. She has the cutest little accent and a very pretty smile. We've been talking a lot…on the phone, mostly after baseball practice. She likes baseball and even understands it! She comes to my games, and sometimes I can hear her yelling at the umpires. She's so cute, and I really like her.
We haven't made anything official, but we are messing around…like kissing and stuff. Every time we're alone, things get a little more…hot and heavy. It's getting to that point, you know? So far, we've only been able to make out in my car since I just got my license a few months ago.
I don't know what to do. Do I let things progress and just go with it? Do I wait? I don't really want to wait, but I will to respect her. Not sure I'd know what to do if we didn't wait anyway. I mean, I know what to do…I just don't know, you know?
My friends are all full of shit when it comes to this stuff. They all brag, but I know for a fact half of the stuff they say is made up. I just don't think they're very respectful to girls. Mom and Nana would have my ass if I talked about girls the way they do. Then again, they'd probably have my ass if they knew what I wanted to do with Angela.
I wish you were here so I could really talk to you about it. Thank God Mom doesn't read this journal any more.
I just found this journal as I was packing up my things. I can't believe it's been over two years since I last wrote in this. I got busy with school and baseball. You should know I got a baseball scholarship to Georgia Tech, but they don't have a pre-med program, so I turned it down.
Uncle Jamie gave me a ton of shit about it. He said I could be passing up an opportunity to go pro. Grandpa Charlie agreed with him, but they just don't get it. I love baseball; I really do. But I want to study the brain. I want to find ways to save people . . . people like you. I said as much in my graduation speech.
Grandma Renee told them to leave me alone, said she was proud I got into your alma mater, Emory. Nana Esme and Papa Carlisle treated us all to dinner when I got my acceptance letter. We were all surprised because they don't like to leave their house much. Mom says that old people sometimes get like that. It was awesome, though; there must've been fifteen or so people in our group at the restaurant.
Even Victoria came. She's Uncle Jamie's flavor of the month, though she's lasted a bit longer than his others. Uncle Jasper and Aunt Alice were there with Lucy and Maria. It's hard to believe my cousins are about to start high school. I remember giving them piggyback rides when they were little.
I should probably finish packing. You'd think I was moving out of the country the way Mom reacted when I told her I was getting my own place. I'm just renting an apartment close to campus.
She'll be fine. She has him. I'm not his biggest fan, but he does treat Mom well. Still, he's not you.
Until next time . . . whenever that might be.
I can't believe I found this; it was sitting atop a dusty box in the attic. I was putting stuff away, making room for things in the nursery, and when I saw this journal, I stopped and took a trip down memory lane.
Ten years! Wow! A lot has happened. I graduated from Emory's medical school two years ago. I've been working as a resident at Grady. The hours suck, but they're allowing me to work in the research lab even though I'm not a fellow yet. It's amazing how far we've come in terms of medical technology, but we're still worlds away from really understanding the brain. I'm determined to make a breakthrough, though.
I got married a little over a year ago. Emily is amazing. She's also a doctor, but she plans to specialize in pediatrics. It suits her. She's absolutely riveting to watch when she's around children. Pregnancy also suits her. Though, I never could've imagined that she'd look more beautiful than she did on our wedding day.
We held the ceremony at Piedmont Park. Emily didn't want anything fancy, just a simple outdoor wedding with only our closest friends and family. A little after sundown, we released sky lanterns for you, Grandpa Charlie, Papa Carlisle, and Grandma Renee. It's been a rough few years losing so many of our family members. It was Emily's idea to honor them . . . you. I think Nana Esme fell more in love with her than I did on that day.
I have to be honest, Dad. I'm scared as hell about becoming a father. I still feel like a kid sometimes myself. We have dinner once a week as a family, and even though I'm a grown man, I still allow Mom to baby me and take care of me whenever we're at her house.
Speaking of Mom, she is so excited to become a grandmother. She's all but offered to move in with us so she can watch the baby while Emily and I are at work.
I hate that you aren't here to witness this. I wish you could see Emily's smile, or hear Mom's laughter, or listen to Uncle Jamie's wild stories of his "glory days" (he's such a grumpy retiree!) I'd like to think you have a better view from where you are. That's what I tell myself, anyway.
I love you.
Edward (soon to be father)
Where do I start? There's so much in my head right now.
My last entry was a little over five years ago, right before Anthony was born. My son looks so much like us. I've looked at the baby pictures, and it's astounding how much we both resemble you. The Cullen genes are strong!
Emily and I have decided that one child is enough for now. We both needed time to finish our residencies and get settled in our respective careers. Emily joined an existing practice, though she hopes to open her own one day. I got a research fellowship through Grady. We work closely with Emory. I'd like to say that we've made astounding breakthroughs, but that would be a lie. I think we've uncovered just as many questions as answers when it comes to brain function, mapping, and how it relates to human health and behavior. God sure was a son of a bitch when he created the brain. So complex. So hard to understand. Yet so majestic and awe-inspiring all the same. It's still my life's mission to find a cure for astrocytomas, though. And I will . . . someday.
I should probably apologize for the son of a bitch comment, but it's just how I feel at the moment. I haven't been coping well, not since Mom . . . well, you know. So Emily practically forced me to sit down and write when she found this journal resting on our bookshelf.
I'm still not ready to talk about it, so this will be my last entry . . . at least in this particular journal.
Just know that we're healthy, and, for all intents and purposes, happy.
I miss you and love you.
P.S. Tell Mom I miss her and love her, too. I know she's right where she belongs . . . with you.