A Birthday Letter to Avery
Today you would have been 8 years old. So Happy Birthday, Aves.
We can’t believe it’s been eight years since you were born.
Worse, we can’t believe it’s been eight months since you left us.
Eight of the longest months you can imagine.
We know you are doing great now. You’re in heaven, you’re healed and whole again.
You’re cancer free. We are so comforted to know we’ll join you someday. It gives us peace.
But for now, we’re hurting. Our hearts hurt, daily.
We wish nothing more than we could have had a big birthday party for you today. That you could have made a list of what you wanted to do, what and where you wanted to eat, what you wanted wrapped up as a present.
You loved to celebrate and you loved to have a party.
You loved to have a plan.
So today, we did what you probably would have made sure we had done for your birthday.
Mommy made Chicken Squares. That was your favorite homemade food.
Remember when we were at Disney World on your Make-a-Wish trip and we were in Turtle Talk with Crush?
He saw you in the crowd and wanted to interview you.
“Hey, dudette, what’s your favorite food?”
“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Dudette, where is the square on the chicken?”
Addison reenacts that all the time. It makes us all laugh.
So we had to have Chicken Squares tonight. And a salad, of course. With ranch. And lots and lots of watermelon. Just like you would have wanted.
We decorated cookies, we had Cake Pops. We watched Home Alone 2, one of your two favorite Christmas movies.
But we celebrated you. Like you would have.
Kendall made you a special treat too. She made a fairy garden that’s on our patio. It has characters from Frozen and Peppa Pig on it plus some other special things that reminded her of you. She and her mom brought it over last night and to give to us. You would have loved it.
It’s not just your family celebrating you, it’s your friends too. We all love you. We all miss you.
We can’t believe it’s been eight years since you were born.
It’s funny, of all of the kids, you were the only one who was born after their due date. Alex was 10 days early, Cade was three weeks early and Addison was even three days early.
But you were a week late. That’s why it’s funny.
Because you were never late for anything. You were ALWAYS first.
First awake. First to be ready. First in the car. First out of the car. You always wanted to be first.
I remember taking you to your bus stop in kindergarten. You, Faith, Ella and Brooklyn would jostle to see who would be first on the bus. It was always cute. Smiles on your faces, to see who could get to the front of the line.
So it’s funny that the only kid of ours that was born late, was the one who was always first for everything else.
You were born in Tacoma. Such a beautiful place and day when you were born. And yet, Tacoma was also where we got the worst news we could have ever gotten. Just up the street, in fact, from where you first joined us.
Alex had visited you in the hospital when you were born. She sang Twinkle, Twinkle to you. It was beautiful.
I remember when we brought you home for the first time. Alex and Cade were so excited to welcome you to your home. They were so excited, the both of them, to have a little sister.
And then their excitement was surpassed by YOUR excitement, when YOU got to have a little sister. I remember how excited YOU were when we brought Addison home after she was born.
You jumped on our bed the morning after she first came home, and loudly yelled and introduced us to your baby sister, at the top of your lungs: THIS IS ADDISON!!!! (as you pointed to her…).
You two eventually shared a room, and shared a bunk bed, like two sisters do.
You played together, you laughed together, you sang together. You fought together (again, like sisters do). But you loved each other so much. So, so much.
Addison gets sad a lot. She misses her big sister, her playmate.
Whenever we go visit you now, Addi gets really quiet.
Before we leave, she always kisses your picture, says goodbye softly and then tells you that she loves you and misses you.
Every night before she goes to bed, mommy or daddy show her videos of you. You make her laugh. She cracks up at the silly things you did in the videos. A lot of it was you teasing Cade, unbeknownst to him. Or telling your audience just how crazy your brother was.
“This is Avery.com and I’m here because I have a brother who is really crazy.”
Addison laughs and laughs.
But then she gets sad.
Sometimes, mommy will read her a book, and then Addison will make up her own words to the pictures.
Last week, she was reading a story about two sisters. When she put in her own words, she said:
“Avery! You are so brave and strong and such a wonderful sister. Even though you are in heaven, I know I will see you again. I love you. We had fun playing. You are so pretty, you have a nice voice and you are silly.”
You are Addison’s role model and her hero.
You are ALL of our hero.
Everyone in the family misses you so badly, Aves.
Mommy. Daddy. Cade. Alex. Addison. Your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your friends, your teachers, you name it.
Last week, Daddy and Cade were driving and Cade just started talking about how much he misses you. Cade tries to be a tough boy, and show how strong he is, but talking about you, you can see how much he loves you and misses you. He’s heartbroken. He loved being at school with you the last couple years.
Cade said that so many people were wearing AveryStrong shirts at school today. Their way of telling you Happy Birthday.
The school year started last month. Ms. Sergis has a new class of first graders. Your old class is now in second grade. But Ms. Sergis’ classroom will always have a reminder of you. There are two small recliners, one pink and one green, with #AveryStrong on them, that Ms. Sergis’ students sit in when they do show-and-tell. Pretty cool, huh? Your school hasn’t forgotten about you.
In fact, Cade was voted student council president this year at Lakeland Hills, and he talked about you in his speech. You inspire him.
You inspire all of us.
A few months ago, mommy and daddy started a foundation. We thought about calling it the AveryStrong Foundation.
But we decided to name it the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation.
We wanted to make sure your name is constantly mentioned. That you are constantly talked about.
We still have your bedroom here. It’s the headquarters of the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation. You finally got the TV in your room when you came home from the hospital in January. It’s now on the wall. You always wanted that TV in your room.
The TV is in here and there are some green chairs in your room. Mommy and daddy both have their desks in there for the Foundation and for daddy’s work.
Last month, Alex and Daddy were in Washington D.C. We talked to a lot of people who had heard of you, who knew your story, who knew just how incredible and brave you were.
Remember when we were at Disney World and that lady saw you getting off a ride and said “Oh, is that Princess Avery of Arendelle? I’m from Ohio and we had heard about her! She is so brave!!”
It was like that. People we’ve never met, from the other side of the country, amazed at how brave you were.
So mommy and daddy decided to start a foundation, so we can keep talking about you for the rest of our lives, to tell people how amazing and brave you were and to inspire people to do something to make sure no other mommies and daddies ever have to go through what we went through.
Your fight and courage is inspiring so many people to get involved and take action.
You are so incredible, Avery. You are STILL making an impact.
It’s no surprise.
You knew how to make an impact from the get-go.
Alex misses you too. You inspire her too. She wants to be a doctor. And not just any doctor- she wants to be an oncologist. She wants to help people who have the same kind of sickness you did. When she was in Washington D.C., she got to talk to a lot of people about you, she got to tell people what made you sick and she got to tell people that she will work to find a cure, just like we plan to. You would have been so happy to see how proud Alex was to talk about you. She got to meet a few other people who were sisters or brothers to brave kids like you who got sick. But mostly she got to talk about you.
And she got to be inspired by you.
Like we said, you inspire so many people.
Coco misses you. So does HoppyJumpy.
Remember when you came home from the hospital and you weren’t feeling good and I’d come upstairs and you’d giggle because Coco was laying on your bed? You knew we would laugh. So you laughed too.
Coco comes upstairs to your room and sits in the office with us. She goes right to the chair, right by your bed, and just sits.
HoppyJumpy is doing good. We love HJ because YOU picked him out.
Just like Coco. When you and Alex saw Coco for the first time, you know that was your puppy.
We’re taking good care of HJ and Coco. Coco only listens to daddy, which is funny because daddy didn’t want a dog. We go on long walks, Coco and daddy, and I spend most of that time thinking of you.
Mommy makes sure that HoppyJumpy gets plenty of veggies too.
Today would have been a festive day for you. You would have made sure of it. I can only imagine what your list would have looked like.
So we tried to do as much today like you would have probably done.
Nana came over and made us breakfast like she did every day last year when you were sick. She made the same breakfast you always requested. We listened to music like you two always did.
We thought about you in everything we did today.
Oh yeah, we also have a surprise coming. We had it arranged to come today but there was a slight hiccup. But we can’t wait unveil it. Stay tuned.
Guess what? They put a Menchies up by the house. You loved yourself some Menchies. They put it right next to Starbucks. And you loved Starbucks too. Whether it was a hot chocolate or a cake pop, Starbucks was your thing. Like a true Washington native.
In fact, your friends at Starbucks like Nikole and Dana wore AveryStrong shirts today. They miss you too.
So of course, we all had a hot chocolate and cake pop from Starbucks too.
And when we were driving down Lake Tapps Parkway, the “Avery Tree” was decorated. It had a birthday hat on it. You would have laughed. You would have loved to see your tree decoarated for your birthday.
Mommy made some sugar cookies and we decorated them. You loved to bake and decorate cookies. Even when you came home from the hospital for the last time and weren’t feeling well, you always felt well enough to go downstairs and help decorate. So we did that because you would have probably wanted to decorate all your treats.
After we watched the movies, mommy and daddy sat down and did something else.
Not long after you left us, we celebrated your life at church. There were over 1,000 people there. And another 500 people or so watched it on YouTube.
(You remember YouTube, right? You became an internet sensation when “Anna” from Frozen called you. You loved that. “Mom, Dad, I can’t believe I’m on YouTube! And I’m on Google too!”).
Anyhow, at the celebration of your life, there was a chance for people to write notes about how you touched their life.
We’ve had these notes for almost eight months and weren’t quite ready to sit down and read them. So mommy suggested we read them on your birthday. What a great idea.
So just a little bit ago, mommy and I sat down and read them. And we cried. A lot. You have no idea, Aves, just how much you touched people’s lives.
It touched both of us to read the impact you have. I mean, we always knew it, but to read it reminded us again.
You always hated when mommy and daddy cried when you were sick. It would make you sad to see us sad. You would tell us ‘don’t be sad’.
We tried to hold it together when we were in front of you. But there were so many tears that flowed when you’d go to sleep.
And now, the tears keep flowing. At random times. At expected and predictable times.
It could be a show or movie you liked is on. It could be a song that you liked, or one that reminds us of you, playing.
It could be in some of the silly things that Addison does that remind us so much of you.
But there are a lot of tears. Almost daily.
Our hearts are crushed, Aves, because you’re not here with us. Even though you SHOULD BE here with us.
And it makes us sad to know you’re not here.
But it makes us happy to know where you are. In heaven. With Jesus.
But, man, how we wish you were here with us.
We went to a beach house for a week with Nana and GPa, and Aunt Michelle and your cousins. You would have loved it because you were with family. And no doubt, there would have been some play or talent show that you would have orchestrated. We all had a good time.
Yet it wasn’t the same without you there.
There are so many things we do now, they just aren’t the same.
Going out to dinner as a family, going to the movies, going on mini-trips. Our family of six, forever a family of six, but a party of five. That’s how it will be. And that sucks.
Even tonight, it was hard to “celebrate” a birthday when the guest of honor, the birthday girl, wasn’t physically here.
And it’s going to be really tough the next couple months when Thanksgiving and Christmas happen.
You loved Christmas. It was your favorite Holiday (besides the 4th of July). You loved watching Santa’s sleigh tracker on the computer, or asking mommy and daddy every 4 minutes ‘where is Santa now?’ You loved to leave out cookies and milk, and of course, since you loved veggies, you always made sure the reindeer had a snack too.
But mostly, you just loved to be with your family. And Thanksgiving and Christmas were about Family.
And your family loved being with you.
Avery, we want you to know just how much you mean to us. How you will forever mean so much to us. And to so many others.
We made sure we always told you and your brother and sisters how much we love you. How proud we are of you.
And we’ll say it till we can’t say it anymore- you were an incredible young lady, who changed our lives for the better.
While we wish more than anything, ANYTHING, that we could have had you jump on our bed early this morning, to hear you tell us it was your birthday and to make sure we told you Happy Birthday and sing it to you as you prepared to blow out your candles, we couldn’t do any of that today.
But don’t think for a second that we weren’t thinking of you every minute of the day. Just like we do every day.
You are ALWAYS on our minds. ALWAYS in our hearts.
Avery, you are the most incredible person we’ve ever known. Everything we do for the foundation, we do because we want to make you so proud. We want to change lives like you changed lives.
You are the most amazing little girl we’ve ever had the privilege and honor to know.
You keep on inspiring us and you keep on impacting us.
And you always will.
Aves, we will forever be, #AveryStrong.
We love you kiddo, more than you can ever imagine.
We love you, beautiful.
Happy Birthday, Aves.
Mommy and Daddy