Bright Stars and Moon Shadows

Emily Wolf
3 min readDec 23, 2023

Today we are celebrating your third birthday, Otto.

If you were here in the flesh, we’d be celebrating with cake and presents based on your heart’s current desire — I have a hunch it’d be a toddler drumset, or maybe a guitar or paints. Something with which to co-create art and beauty, to stoke your wonder.

Instead, we settled for naming a star for you — an extra-bright one that we can see, right in the center of things, between the Sculptor and Phoenix constellations. (This location feels right.) You have always had a celestial quality, even when you were here on earth. It’s only fitting that the song I found myself singing to you most was Moonshadow by Cat Stevens. Thank you for playing it for me so often. I love that song. I love that it is ours.

Your third birthday feels so much more celebratory than your first (miserable) or second (complicated). I’m trying to untangle why this is the case.

The saying “time heals all wounds” I now know not to be true — not for losses like yours, anyway. So that’s not it.

The obvious reason is that your brother, Abraham, is here, and just turned one. That he is a delight in his own way, just as you were in yours; that he is present with your family on this bittersweet day; that we are all in love with him just as we are all in love with you. He brings his own joy and wonder to everything, to the sweet egg bagels and apple tart your dad baked for your birthday, to the garden in which your parents brought him to seek solace and to be present with you.

You have also taught us so much. By showing up, again and again, you have made it impossible for any of us not to believe that you are still here. You have made it impossible for us not to believe in magic. And that is a comfort. It is worth celebration. Whenever the deep hurt breaks through, we know we will find you, that you will hold us, that we will hold each other. That we will smile, together, again.

You have also given us the texture and richness that loss brings. The ability to listen to the whispers on the wind, to turn our faces to the sun, and to each other. To appreciate and delight in what we have. To let unimportant things go. You have brought to the surface, for some of us, old losses that we have tried to bury. Facing these losses is difficult but, also, a blessing; we can only run from what is stored inside us for so long before faced with the brave choice to live free.

You continue to change the world. The hospital that tried to save your life has designed new processes that are kinder and more sensitive to families like yours. You have shown untold degrees of friends and relations what love is and what matters in this life. You and your family continue to inspire doctors, drive research, and inspire the scientists who were born for this job, who were born to discover how to stop the sky from falling on others.

Your birthday comes one day after the solstice, the day the earth pivots away from darkness and towards the light. Perhaps this is the best way to describe what you continue to do for us, and for all who knew you, or of you — for all those who will continue to know you for thousands of tomorrows. Thank you for all you have given us to celebrate, on your third birthday, on every birthday, on every day, always and forever. Our love for you is endless, just like you.

Happy birthday to our magic boy. Happy birthday to our Otto.

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Emily Wolf

Author, worker, woman, wife, U2-loving frazzled mama.