The Birthday That Never Was

Lindy Thibodaux
6 min readFeb 26, 2022
My daughter, Valerie. The beach and the rock (upper left) are the ones referred to in the text, near Cannon Beach, Oregon. (All photos and montage design by Lindy Thibodaux.)

Dear Valerie,

Today is your birthday. Yesterday, I brought home your remains.

On the morning of Monday, January 31, 2022, not long after you were declared dead, I had to send a couple of text messages, and to have to write the words, “Valerie died this morning” was almost physically impossible — and it feels the same today. (On the way home after hearing your cancer diagnosis on December 29, 2021, you had said yourself that it “just doesn’t make sense”. It still doesn’t make sense to me, and quite possibly it never will.)

I have been doing my best to follow your oft-repeated advice to trust my own instincts. Even on the day that you died, I started to feel very strongly that I would be better off being alone as much as possible. I’m sure that flies in the face of what most people would think, but all I can say is that I know myself well enough to be sure that if even one other person was around me, I would inevitably be more concerned with taking care of them than myself. And if there is one time in my life when I believe it really needs to be all about me, it’s now. To say that I am grieving your loss is to hideously understate the reality that I am in by far the worst pain of my entire life. It’s indescribable. I’ve been searching for a metaphor, and am now convinced that an adequate one does not exist, but I might give some sense of what I’m experiencing by saying it’s like having open-heart surgery with no anesthetic and a rusty scalpel: I may survive it, but the pain and trauma and scars will be with me forever.

Valerie, when you died, I lost my daughter, my only child, my housemate, my companion, my adventure buddy. We’ve been through so much together, wonderful experiences and some pretty rocky times too. Remember me saying you were the one person I’d want with me on a desert island? You agreed, saying that even though you might drive me mad now and then (true), life with you would never be boring (also true). And I realized recently that we have actually lived together for fully 30 of your 38 years — I was married to your father for 23 years, and at my age now, it’s unlikely I’ll ever live with anyone else for as long as I did with you. I was so lucky, and I hope you thought so too, that we were able to be together that much, and to be able to benefit as much as we did from all that time.

Lindy Thibodaux

Writes about the transformative power of color. Designs. Plays piano, speaks French, dances Argentine tango. Loves.