When I realized that Andy’s 18th birthday was going to fall on a Thursday, and thus be a podcast release day, I knew that the episode would have to be devoted completely to Andy. I planned to arrange this amazing episode with recordings from all of the people who loved him. I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. As the day came closer, however, I found that I could not do it. The pain was just too deep – I was constantly crying, and I was putting way too much pressure on myself.

Last week, I tearfully opened up to Gwen, telling her what I had dreamed for the episode and of my disappointment in myself. She quickly volunteered to help and encouraged me to let go of all of the expectations I had for myself. She invited me to simply open up and talk about all of my feelings and to not hold anything back.

Normally, my episodes are recorded about a month before I release them. We have plenty of time to edit and I do this write-up after I listen to the entire thing one last time. This week is completely different. I am writing this out the night before I even do my interview. I have no idea how it will turn out. It will be published completely unedited. I don’t really know if I will even be able to talk or if my emotions will be too overwhelming.

I do have a couple of special birthday messages to play including a rendition of Happy Birthday sung by Andy’s old choir. I have not even had the courage to play that for myself yet because I know it will release a floodgate of tears. I have a few emails that will be read as well, but mostly, Gwen and I will just talk about my dear, sweet Andy and what this day and this whole time of year means.

I always try to make each episode as encouraging as possible, and I fear that I will not be able to do much of that this week, but I have to remind myself that grief cannot be tied up in a neat little package. Holidays and birthdays are hard. This week, Gwen is in charge, and I am being interviewed, and if I am a ‘hot mess,’ it is OK because grief IS messy.