Today would have been your forty-third birthday.

In our family, we tend to celebrate birthdays in groups: my grandmother, mother and uncle in March; the twins and a cousin in July; and then you and I in August.

I’ve never been particularly fond of birthdays, and not for the superficial reason many give of being reminded that they’re older. Being the center of attention is something I’ve never been fully comfortable with, and one thing that’s made it more bearable in the past is that you were there to share it with me. Like clockwork, even if we hadn’t seen each other in a while, we’d pick up and talk during the August birthday gathering and all would be well.

I’m going to miss that this year, and I miss you. It doesn’t feel right to know that you won’t be here to share the tradition with me this year, or ever again.

* * *

You died on a Sunday, on Halloween. I remember thinking that I wished I’d seen you one last time, wanting the ‘proper’ goodbye that many wish for but never get. We were out of time, and though I was devastated, a part of me was smiling because that’s the last memory I have of you: lying in a hospital bed, obviously in excruciating pain, doing your best to not show it, and smiling. You had no regrets, no delusions about how your life would end, or how soon. You weren’t scared or angry or bitter; you were happy.

In a way, maybe it’s best that we never said goodbye, because that’s how I always want to remember you: with a smile on your face.