Since you had to leave I haven't been in the spirit of trying to trick anyone. It was anything but a trick that you had to go so soon, two days before April Fools, but I was left feeling a fool for not seeing it coming faster than anyone could anticipate.
The first year was the hardest. There were so many changes that you would not be able to be a part of, yet so many more that may not have taken place had you still been here. Relationships crumbled and were either rebuilt or left behind as tainted memory. We each faltered in different ways, with no other option than to blame your not being here for it. The wear of your absence was evident on all of our faces, yet we knew that the toll of your persistent condition would have been greater had you survived.
The second year brought the initial signs of relief. We worked towards defining ourselves outside of the loss. Questions would still crop up from time to time that could not be answered, reminding us of your invaluable wealth of knowledge, making us miss you harder, but appreciate you more. While the first year was about the pain, the second year was about the forgiveness - seeing you as a person, versus the wandering ghost of a man we had become accustomed to long before you actually left. We learned to accept and embrace your faults as we're forced to with our own, and finally face the world as "grown ups," or something like that.
The third year brought a return to normalcy. Some of us went on with our lives as we had been, others moved to pursue new directions. Some of us learned to live with others, while others learned how to live alone. You still show up in my dreams, but my mind's image of you has changed from the slow-moving, lost man I remember to a more youthful playful spirit that I recall knowing in my youth. Each dream is the same; I ask you why you are there, and you say, "Eh. Don't worry about. I'm supposed to be here," and you smile. Last time I saw you, I was setting up a pic-nic lunch on a patio for the family, and you were sitting up on some perch, looking like a photo I've seen of you just past your college years, swinging your legs, eager to watch everyone gather. We both know you weren't really supposed to be there, but I was the only one who saw you, and you winked at me, like it was going to be our secret.
Now we enter the fourth year, and I know you'll be there as I bring your granddaughter into the world. I hope to see you as I fall asleep with her in my arms, and I will think that maybe, behind her closed eyes, she'll see you too.