real life

"You'll never be forgotten." A letter to my wife on her first birthday in heaven.

Dear Rachel,

Today is your birthday. I know you know that already, but I’m just down here reminding the rest of the world. You did a great job of that while you were here, but you’re not now, so I’ll need to carry that torch from here on out.

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Anyone who knew you, knew that you were the most selfless person on the face of the planet and that for 364 days a year, you’d put everyone’s needs before yours. But each year, on this day, your birthday, it was about you and no one else. And I loved that about you. I loved how much you loved your birthday.


For most of us, as we get older, we stop celebrating our birthday. We don’t like to keep count of how old we are getting. But not you. You welcomed it. Heck, you even celebrated your half birthday. Most people stop doing that at like five and a half years old. That wasn’t how you rolled. And from what I remember, we had a heck of a bash when you turned 38 and a half last November.

I hope you know that just because you’re not here, that doesn’t mean that we won’t be celebrating you. You’ve been in heaven for 75 days now and not a day has gone by that we haven’t celebrated your greatness. Each day looks a bit different. Some are just really hard and are filled with a lot of tears. It took me a couple of months, but I’ve recently learned that that’s okay and to embrace those days.

One thing that surprises me a bit, and that I think you’ll be really happy to know, is that many days see lots of laughter. Yep, despite what some people think, we still laugh. Maybe not quite as hard as we used to, because, well, I’m not as funny as you and the kids don’t get a kick out of me like they did you. But we still laugh. And we laugh often. And I know that makes you so happy.

We talk about you a lot. We tell stories about mummy and all the fun things she did when she was here. We’ve come to the realisation that on most days, you were the “fun” in this family, and without you around we have to work a bit harder to entertain ourselves. You were for sure our entertainer. And that’s one of the million reasons we miss the heck out of you.

I just hope you know that I’m trying my best each day to be better. I gave up on the idea that I could ever be as good as you were. I just can’t. I’m not sure anyone can. You were the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), and that’s a lot to live up to. I mean, if you can’t be the GOAT, you may as well marry her. And that’s exactly what I did.


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Ten years ago today. It was the day that Rachel chose me, of all people, and said “I do.” Ten years ago today. The day I knew that I’d found my happily ever after. We were supposed to be in Hawaii this week. But instead, she’s in a much better paradise. We were supposed to renew our vows to each other this week. But instead I’m renewing them alone, yet I’m certain she’ll see them. Rachel, You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. Ten years ago, I promised to always take care of you, and if we are being completely honest, I feel like I failed. Each day, I sit and I wonder if I could have done more. I wonder if there were other options we didn’t pursue. I’ll always wonder if I could have done better. I wonder so many things and hate that I couldn’t fix this. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t fix it. But today I want to assure you that just because you’ve gone to your eternal home, it doesn’t mean I’ll stop fulfilling our vows. I promise to remind our kids each day how much you love them. And to not only remind them, but to show them. I promise to remind our kids each day how much God loves them. And to not only remind them, but to show them. I promise not to let a day go by that I don’t love others like you love others. And oh man, do you love others well. I promise to hug longer. Uncomfortably longer. I promise to get a tattoo. You’re the only person that could drive me to the point of doing something this stupid and this permanent to my body. I promise to dance with the kids more. I don’t promise to dance well. I can’t take your place. You were the best dance partner they could ever have. I promise our relationship with Grandma and Papa won’t change a bit. They will be at every life event, big or small, as long as they are willing. I promise to take care of myself. You did so well at taking care of me and I can’t take care of me like you took care of me, but I’ll do my best. I promise I’ll never love anyone the way I love you. I don’t promise I won’t love again, because you told me to love again, but I’ll never love anyone the way I love you. That’s impossible. Rachel, you are the best thing… #thejanous5 #racheljanous #lovelikerachel #huglonger

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I’m trying to be a better listener, because you were so good at listening to the kids tell their endless stories, even when what they were talking about had no point or was super boring.

I’m trying to be a better dancer, because you were such a good dance partner for Cooper. So far, she hasn’t been impressed with my moves, but I think we are getting somewhere and with a little more practice, I don’t think she will be embarrassed of me anymore.

I’m trying to be a better cuddler, because you were the best cuddler that Macklin could ever dream of having. As you know, that’s not my thing. I’ve always been the one that when it’s time to sleep, I like to sleep and don’t care to be touched. Macklin doesn’t know that.

I haven’t filled him in on that. And I’ve done my best to play your part there. I’m not doing as well as you did. I have a tendency to push him away when his foot hits my face. But I’m working on it and eventually I’ll embrace the foot in the face. Maybe.


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That’s Rachel’s spot in the bed. For the last 10 years that’s where she slept. Always to my right. Always farthest away from the door. Always right by my side. For the last 38 nights, that’s been Macklins spot. Always to my right. Always farthest away from the door. Always right by my side. Last night we tried to start him in his own bed because for 38 nights I haven’t slept well. He kicks a lot. He itches a lot. He slaps me sometimes. He’s a five year old boy that never stops moving. Even when he’s sleeping. Last night he made it till midnight. And if we are being completely honest, I was glad when he came down. It kind of felt empty without him. He just crawled into bed, whispered, “I miss Mommy.” And went right back to sleep. What you can’t see in this picture is that on one side of the bed there is a pallet that Cooper ends up on each night. And at the foot of the bed is a pallet that Hadley ends up on each night. For 38 nights we’ve all ended up together. I’m assuming eventually that will change. I’m assuming that I won’t have 16 year old daughters sleeping on my floor each night. I’m assuming one day Macklin will desire to have his own bed to toss around in. I’m assuming one day they will get tired of being in daddy’s room or having anything to do with daddy for that matter. I’m assuming one day I’ll sleep through the night again. But until that day, I’m not even going to try to change it. I’m so glad that they want to be close to me. I’m so glad that they love me like they do. I’m so glad that they feel safe when they are with me. Right by my side. What they don’t understand quite yet is that they do the exact same thing for me. And that there is nowhere else I’d rather be than with them. Right by their side. #dadlife #thejanous5 #yestheyareChristmaspjs #dontjudgeme

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I’m trying to “nerd out” more with Hadley and to be more excited about her rock collections and her science experiments. It’s just that some of those experiments are such a mess and so much to clean up. Yet, you never complained about them. You encouraged her the entire time. And then you cleaned up her mess when she was done. Every single time.

I’m trying to be a better friend. When you went to Heaven, a lot of people lost their best friend. I’ve never known someone to have so many best friends. I can’t fill the roll that you held for all of them, but I’m doing my best to love them all and love them well. I don’t think they expect much from me, so I think we are doing okay there. But man, they sure do miss you.

I just wanted to make sure that you know that even though you’re gone, today is about you. Today is about finding ways to give you the things you asked for, even after you’ve passed. You wouldn’t believe how many people that didn’t even know you are celebrating you today.

We even made these cool shirts that say “Love Like Rachel”, and there are about 1,000 people wearing them today. It’s amazing. So many of them have never even met you. Everyone is honouring you today. People are striving today, and everyday, to love people more like you did.


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We’ve got our shirts ready for tomorrow, do you?? Just a quick reminder that tomorrow is Rachels Birthday! So if you have a “Love Like Rachel” shirt, please wear it in honor of her. The kids and I cannot wait to see all of you rocking your shirt and how you choose to celebrate Rachel on her birthday. I hear some of you may have even choreographed a little dance! #dancelikerachel?!? No matter what you do, just remember to rock your shirt, shoot a photo and #lovelikerachel on social media so we can see all of you celebrating Rachel. Bonus points – Don’t just wear the shirt but actually practice the message. Love people better. Be more kind. Listen more and speak less. Be an encourager. Be more patient. And if your situation allows you to hug, just make sure to hug a little longer. People need to be loved now more than ever and at least for tomorrow let’s make it start with us. #lovelikerachel

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I want to reassure you of something really quickly. You had a few big worries when you got sick and especially when we got the news that you weren’t going to get better.

One was that myself and the kids would be taken care of. I just want you to know that we are so loved. And that not a moment goes by in our day where we don’t feel that. No one has tried to fill your role. No one can love us the way you did. But people are loving us so well. I want you to know that we are okay. And just recently I realised that it’s okay to be okay.

For a while, I thought there was something wrong with that. That I wasn’t supposed to be okay this soon. But then I realised that’s all you wanted for us. To be okay.

Today is about celebrating everything that made you special and so deeply loved. But the truth is, today is hard. It’s so hard not having you here. It’s not the same without you here. We miss you so much. But today isn’t about us, it’s about you and we are going to celebrate and celebrate big.

I must mention that there is one small problem. We aren’t really allowed to be around people right now. There is this pandemic thing going on. Yep, right after you left us the entire country shut down. It’s the strangest thing. I wish you could see what’s happening. I’d love your take on it all.

Everyone is wearing masks if they go anywhere. Most people are being forced to stay home. There is no school. Yep, that’s right. The kids haven’t been to school since mid-March. I think I’m supposed to be teaching them from home but that’s not happening. So they may get held back. Who knows?

And of course half the world thinks we should open back up and start partying in big ole groups, while the other half thinks we should stay inside for the next two years and not even make eye contact with our immediate family.


I’m not sure who is right. I’m thinking probably somewhere in the middle. But you wouldn’t like it very much because you aren’t even allowed to hug people unless they live with you. We all know that just wouldn’t fly with you.

All that to say, I just need you to know that we will try our hardest to be joyful today, for you. We will look at pictures of you. We will talk about how incredible you were. We will share stories of all the times that made us laugh, times that surprised us, and times we’ll never forget.

We’ll gather together today. Not a bunch of us together like we’d like to, but hundreds of small gatherings, all across the world, will come together and honour you. I hope you can see us. I think you can. I sure hope you can.

You’ll see that you aren’t forgotten. That you’ll never be forgotten. That we will never forget your love, your kindness, your generosity, your patience, your hugs, your beauty and your grace.

Selfishly, I hope we all feel your presence today. I’m pretty sure we will. It’s rare that a day goes by that we don’t. But on the really “important days,” like today, I find myself searching for you, even more than usual.

Rachel, you did what so many people spend their entire lives trying to do, yet never accomplish. And you did it in less than 39 years. You made the world a better place. Not just when you were here, but even now, after you’re gone. The ripple effect that your life has had is something only seen in the movies. Until now. Until you.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Rach. I really hope that you’re dancing up there today. I bet you are. And I hope that all of the love and the birthday wishes from down here make it up to you. I think they will. I’m pretty sure they will.

We love you. We miss you. And things just aren’t the same down here without you. But you’ll be so pleased to know that we are all doing our best to love just like you loved. #lovelikerachel



Feature Image: Instagram/@thejanous5

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This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission. You can read more from Brandon on his Instagram here.