If you were here today, you would have been 24. And an uncle to boot! I know it's hard for you to imagine your scatterbrained sis as a mom, but it's true!
It's not hard for me to imagine you as an uncle, though. Because you see, you've never really been gone. Almost every day, and for every event in my life for the last 12 years, I've imagined you there.
And not as the 12 year-old you; you with the bright eyes and the impish smile, looking out at me from the framed picture on my desk.
No, in my mind, I've seen you grow. I've imagined so many of your birthdays.
Your 13th, where you officially become a teenager, but much to your annoyance and our amusement, you still look chubby and cute.
Your 15th, where I see the beginnings of the moustache that you are carefully tending.
Your 18th, which you hurriedly celebrate with us because you want spend the rest of the day with a certain special someone.
Your 21st, where I finally begin to see a young man, and not just my kid brother.
And today, your 24th, where you let your adored niece cut your cake and blow out the candles for you.
So you see, you've never really been gone. I've imagined you grow. And I've grown with you.
I still feel the anger. Anger that all I have of you now are memories and imagination.
I sometimes still feel the guilt. Guilt that my life has gone on, when yours was so cruelly cut short.
I always feel the pain. It has dulled to an ache in a corner of my heart, but it is always there.
It hurts that Moppet will never know you. All she will know of her uncle are the stories I can tell her, and the pictures she will see.
But I know you see her, from wherever you are. You know her and love her and watch over her with pride, just as you would if you were here with us.
Happy birthday, my little brother.