Photo by Megan Ann Rucker, taken on December 18, 2011 at Ezra’s 38th birthday party
Photo by Megan Ann Rucker, taken on December 18, 2011 at Ezra’s 38th birthday party

Today I found Ez’s 40th birthday card, the last card I gave him.  In it I admitted that I was having a hard time celebrating his birthday, that for me it felt more bitter than sweet.  But that I had no trouble celebrating him or us, and wanted to do that…

Today Ez should be 42 and still I feel more bitter than sweet.  I don’t want to memorialize him, I want him back.  It has been a little more than a year and a half since he died, but my sadness, rage, and disorientation only grow.  I become only more aware of how much I loved him, how much I’ve lost, how lost I feel.  But when I found this card today, it brought me back, if just for a moment, and made me want to celebrate him.  Here’s what I wrote, which still feels right:

Baby, these are some of the ways that I love you:

I love that you love me, unabashedly.

I love you for making me feel more safe and at home than I ever felt before I knew you.

I love how we’ve made a home together that makes others feel safe and loved.

I love your raw and determined spirit, how you jump and insist that the bridge will appear, or just build it yourself if you have to.

I love how you find beauty and pleasure in so many things.  I’ll never see a plate, a glass, a chair, a photo, or just about anything in the same way.  I’ll always think of how you’d see it, and make it more beautiful.

I love how you insist on sharing beauty and pleasure with others, and widely.

I love your constant pursuit of purpose, stimulation, and connection to the world.  It’s not how I do it, but has inspired me to find my own way.

I love you for helping me find my way, even when it takes me in other directions than you.

Trying to come to terms with losing you, living without you, is simply an impossible, unbearable task – I am too full of you.  I suppose I’ll have to find my way in this too, though, and that I’m in pretty good shape for it, shaped by your love.

I love you baby.  Thank you for all of this and so much more.  Happy Birthday.


65 Replies to “42”

  1. My heart continues to go out to you Hill. You were the luckiest of all of us to know Ezra they way you did and as a result are the one that lost the most. I hope that you can continue to find ways to overcome the sadness and celebrate the joy. XXX

  2. <3 <3 <3

    (I don't know you, I only ever met you guys once, but oh how I wish I could help you carry this.)

    (I still think of you and Ezra pretty often)

  3. Hello Hill,

    Just a note to say we all miss him and you sharing this is a wonderful present to all of his friends and fans.
    I read all of Ezra’s posts and spoke of him lovingly and bought many photos of him and of his, adoring his work. Adoring his love of life, cooking, biking, YOU! All of that came through is what little I shared but one thing stood out more than the bikes, the food, the disease…and that was/is his love of you.

    Wish I could give you a big hug. What a life you’ve led and I think Ezra’s legacy was to show all of us left here that living life from moment to moment is the only life there is. Right here and now.

    Hoping your grief turns to something else more tolerant. It’s been that kind of year for me and THANK you for sharing with all of us.


  4. So good to hear from you. When travelling to New York earlier this year, I couldn’t get the photo of your brownstone out of my head and wondered how things were going in your world, and whether Ezra’s blog…this blog… would continue on, and if so, what it would become. I am one of the many readers/admirers who never had the pleasure of meeting either of you in person. Know that you are thought of often and take care. It is amazing how words on a computer screen can make one warm and so human. Thanks for the post.

  5. I’m so sorry for the pain and loss that you endure daily. I think of Ezra often. Thank you for sharing this.

    Take care,

  6. Happy Ezra Day, Hill — yes, celebrate Ezra, his talents and his spirit; celebrate your love for each other and for life. I think of you often and wonder how you are coping without him at your side. Please know that neither he nor you are forgotten. Sending love from Vancouver, BC.

  7. Precious Hillary,
    I love the way you supported Ezra and his bigger than life journey. I love that you continue to put 1 foot in front of the other every day as you learn your new normal. Please know I think if you often. Hugs from Charlotte. Kathy

  8. Thank you for sharing this beautiful photo Hillary, and your heartfelt words to Ezra. As you noted, he loved to share so you have celebrated him again, given him a gift, a gift, just as you were to him. We all think of you and Ezra and know you will find your way, as difficult as some days may seem. There is no timeline, do as you feel. I’m sorry for every day you wake without him. Love surrounds you, take it in when you can, Xo

  9. Hillary,

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful sentiments. I’ve been thinking of Ezra’s birthday and hoping to see something here the same way you posted last year. Hilary and I are expecting our second child any day now and we were both hoping he or she (surprise!) would share a birthday with Ez. It’s not too late and we’ll have to keep you posted!


  10. I wish I could say the perfect words to you that would make you feel better. Unfortunately, I am unable.
    I will say, that although I have never met you, my heart breaks for the pain and loneliness you are suffering.
    You are living every woman’s nightmare.

    I know you have been told countless times that you will heal and be happy once again. You likely feel very apart from the world around you. Driving by bus stops, seeing people waiting for a bus, will cause you to stop and wonder how it must feel to get through such mundane actions in one’s day with ease. Every moment might feel to you as if it’s very heavy and you are disconnected from all around you.

    Unfortunately, he will not be coming back but within time, you will learn to breathe normally once again. Shortly after, you will soon find that you are able to smile, without feeling guilty for having done so.
    Not long after you will start to slowly feel connected again and the heaviness you feel will lift.

    You are likely not only grieving for the past with Ezra but your future without him. You can’t imagine ever being with another man, or possibly loving again, let alone with a man as rare and as special as he. But you will and he too will be a special person because he will be a reflection of you and you a reflection of Ezra.

    You will never stop loving, or missing him but there will come a time where you will smile and laugh, remembering all when you do and you will be able to leave the pain behind and
    look forward to your future.

    In the meantime, you just need to keep putting one step forward, no matter the pain and trust in yourself that soon enough those steps will become much easier, and lighter.

    I thought of you often when Ezra was dying. I knew what you had to face. When a loved one is dying, we are so consumed with getting them through it, we are never emotionally prepared when it happens.

    His birthday, being so close to Christmas, hasn’t made this an easy time for you but you will find your way in time, at your pace.

    Just know, that only those that have experienced this kind of monumental loss, truly understand how hard a process it can be.
    But do know in your heart that you will smile and you will learn to love life again and finally being able to do so, will not mean that you loved Ezra any less.

  11. What an odd coincidence — I just got back from picking up my own birthday cake for my 43rd birthday. My husband was apologetic about not getting it for me, but he was at work and I was at the bakery with my kids anyway. Felt great to do for myself and also sad because I think about what it will feel like when my stage IV breast cancer gets the best of me and my husband remembers me buying my own cake.

    I hope you will have a glass of wine and remember your Ezra. Hugs to you from a stranger.

  12. i so wish it had worked out differently. the world needs more people like him, who are rare enough as it is. i never met either of you but i share your rage. it’s very unfair.

    i first learned of ezra when my boyfriend, john, saw and admired one of his bikes outside the shubert theater. it belonged to the piano tuner who told john of it’s maker. john opened the blog.

    a bit later, i came to the theater to visit and started reading. i stayed for the entire show, read the entire blog in one sitting. ezra looked very much like my friend abe (the eyebrows!) who i had recently lost to cancer on his 41st birthday.

    i followed the blog ever since, heart broken by the almost certain outcome looming before what was otherwise a charmed couple.

    cherish your memories. i hope putney is still with you. be well

  13. You’re right to feel bitter. No person should have to bear what you have, and there is no cure for the gaping wound in your life that was left when Ezra was cut from it. I’m so sorry for you. It isn’t fair.

  14. I have one of Ezra’s photos up above my bed and I often think of the two of you (and sweet Putney). I am so sorry Hillary; it sucks and it always will. My heart leapt in a confused way when I saw your email in my box. Those we love (even those we’ve never met) live on in our hearts and some days it’s just impossible to believe that we can’t all just go for lunch. Hugs, hugs, hugs to you today.


  15. I think of you all often, every time I look at the images of Ezra’s that hang on my walls…I never got to meet you or Ez, but I did get to meet Glen last month and I felt a little closer to Ez just by meeting someone who knew him and got to spend time with the two of you…music is therapeutic in so many ways and I think of you and his journey whenever I listen to Glen sing and play… I can not pretend to know how you are coping but I am glad you shared this remembrance and please know that I am thinking warmest, peaceful wishes today and everyday for you…I am in awe of your grace even when in pain and while feeling understandable bitterness… Love from Chicago & HBD Ezra.

  16. I’ve been in your shoes and am sending you love through the airwaves. The anger will dissipate, the sadness will come and go. You’ll always have the memories, some wonderful some painful, but in time you will be more likely to smile than to cry when you think about him. Having imaginary conversations with him is okay. He was an amazing person and so are you. Wishing you peace and happiness, Cindy

  17. Nice to see this link in my email. I think of you two often, as I purchased one of Ezra’s photos and I see it daily. Love really does last forever..and your heart will always be full of love for him. He is always there.

  18. Hi Hilliary —
    I am so glad to be on your email list — my heart just breaks for you reading your post — (((hugs)))(((hugs))) and more ((( hugs))))!
    It is all so difficult!
    I never met Ezra… My son was interested in frame building, and somehow smhowed me the website: posts a couple of years ago — and I followed them — SOOOO inspired by his posts! I am an RN with some experience with hospice pts — but Exra’s posts are SOOO awesome/ inspiring — I printed them all out and put in a notebook! There should be a book made out of it — if you havent considered it, I’m sure some hospice organization might help you with it? I just dont know how to express how heartfelt and inspiring his posts are (you probably already know)–

    Anyhow, I hope you continue the emails/website, and keep me on the list — asmuch as it doesnt feel like it to you now, I know it WILL get better with time — better, maybe not perfect– but little by little — BETTER.
    (((Hugs))) and Love to you always Hillary —

  19. Shedding tears for you Hill….

    Both of Sadness and Joy.

    Sadness for your continued feeling of loss and being lost.

    Joy that you that you experienced living with and loving the Dynamic, Amazing Being that Ezra was. And that you were recipient of his Love in return.
    Thank You for Sharing him with the rest of the world!

    Sending You Much Love,

  20. Simply, thank you for sharing this with the world Hil. Sending you warm thoughts, a great big hug and loads of love to you and also to Ez. <3

  21. Hillary,

    We need to see each other! It’s been too long!

    I love you, for sharing this, for who you are, and for loving Ezra.

    I miss Ezra, he was one of a kind, one of the few good ones!

    I think I know what you feel, as I still feel that way when I think of my lover Scott who lived his last years in 545.

    Let’s see each other soon!

    Oxoxox Eric

  22. Thank you for sharing this with us. It is a beautiful, heart-crushing reminder of Ezra, and of the important things in life (entwined, the two, as always).

  23. Beautiful sentiments, beautifully expressed.

    I am sorry that I can offer no magic words or recipe to dissolve the pain that you’re feeling. Life delivers both joy and sorrow to our lives: not always in equal amounts, and not always to those that deserve it. I am confident, however, that you have the strength to endure and prevail, and to continue to share the qualities that made so many of us devotees to Ezra’s blog.

    The way you and Ezra chose to live life in the midst of death was a valuable lesson for which I am truly grateful.

    It has profoundly changed, on a daily basis, the way I live my life.

    Thank you from the U.K.

  24. I miss him too, I loved his posts on the internet, his determination to make the best of everything, the pictures of you together. willow naeco got me involved in the card mailing action both times and I know she misses him too, but he is still with us in spirit. Every time I see a really bitching bike, I am like Ezra is sending inspiration from above.

  25. HilI, I send you a big, strong hug. I wish you´ll start feeling more light than darkness in your life. I wish that I could say something or do something that could help you.

  26. The way he wrote about you, you could tell that that crazy love you had for him was undoubtedly reciprocal. I hope your grief somehow manages to become a little more bearable over time.

  27. Dear Hil, what a beautiful thing to share. He and you shared an amazing love, and shared it with all of us, so that we could know what was possible.

    You didn’t deserve this loss, it’s not fair. But what a gift his short life was. I’m grateful I was touched by it. And sorry I never dropped by to express this in person when I lived nearby – didn’t know you were so close until after I’d moved away.

    Let’s cook a meal sometime.


  28. I often wonder if Ezra’s digital life will vanish into the ether, because his photographs and words and emails kept me from losing my mind sometimes.
    Thanks for keeping his spirit alive for those of us who need it.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Hillary.

  29. Sending love from Scranton, PA. I have a picture of Ezra from when he sold his work and I look at it every day. I never had the chance to meet him but I felt his presence through his writing which left such an impact on me. You’re in my thoughts and heart. xoxo.

  30. I still check in and I’m so glad to see this post. He left a huge impact on me despite my only knowing him through this website. His cancer story is one that will live on for so many of us. Sending warm thoughts to you for the holidays and beyond.

  31. Dear Hill

    Thanks for sharing where you are at; loss like yours is incredibly hard and I feel for you. Ezra is often in my thoughts and you will be now too. Remember to breathe and to take one day or moment at a time. Wishing you find some comfort in the small details of life. Take care.


  32. I remember when Ezra put his pill flasks up for sale. I’d already been following his blog for years and I thought, “Oh my god I’d be so proud to own something that he made, something that was actually in his hands and crafted by this beautiful man”. It felt like winning the lottery when I was able to get one before they sold out. Ezra’s life and art was so beautifully chronicled by him. His life and love with you, Putney, his family, and his friends. I keep that pill flask in my purse and I am reminded of him every time I see it. He is not forgotten. His love for you is still there. Thank you for sharing with us even though he’s gone.

  33. Dear Hil.
    I think of all that happened and still saddens me.
    Reading your letter I feel your pain and loss.
    Wishing you strength and comfort whilst sending you a big hug from Germany

    ps. Made the braised lamb dish a couple of weeks ago like Ezra showed in one of is cooking vids. It tasted magnificent über yummy.

  34. Dear Hillary, I never met either you or Ezra, but I have followed his work since before he became ill and I was so pleased to see that you posted your note of a few days ago – lovely last birthday card. I know it will not help you to know that many unseen folks share a love of you both and that, personally, your loss was felt more deeply than I could have imagined, but nonetheless I wanted you to know I think of you both and Putney often, and I wish you peace and love.

  35. Hillary, I am also one of many who only knew Ezra from this blog, but feel close to him and you. Never commented, but decided to let you know — I can only admire your courage, his and yours. Keep on keeping on, I wish you all the best!

  36. It’s very difficult even to begin to imagine what your loss feels like. I barely have the courage to start imagining how Iost I’d feel if this befell me & my family.
    I can sense that the way his personality & life inspired so many people around the world, surely only reinforced your feelings, and while it doesn’t change the reality of “now”, I do so sincerely hope there is significant comfort in being so very proud of him.

    I wrote this on the 24th May ’15. It’s nothing you don’t already know (and it’s only a view from afar) but I hope that sheer volume of reactions like this can only help when the mood allows.



  37. Hill, Thank you for checking-in and sharing with us a tiny slice of your soul. Your sadness and bitterness make us all weep; your loss unimaginable. Hope you and Putney are together in this. And that you have the space and time and support to let yourself heal… it will never get easier but it will be unfortunately less shocking. We send you big love and, when the time is right, a bit of peace.

  38. HI HILL,your emotions,thoughts and love come through very candidly in your post re your love for ezra y his 38th bday pic of you both is beyond mere words……thank you for sharing yourself to the world……ALWAYS TAKE GREAT CARE OF YOURSELF Y PUTNEY…..WITH SINCERE REGARDS………..BOB

  39. Hill. I followed this blog for a long time and thought of you and Ezra today. I came back to the website and saw this heartbreaking post. I don’t know what to say, but just know I am always thinking of you. Sending you a big from Florida. <3

  40. I wondered about you all year, especially on Ezra’s birthday, Hill. I miss his artwork and his words and go to his photo site all the time to revisit his work. I can’t even imagine knowing him for real and how much I’d miss him. I wish you only the best of luck and good vibes, especially on the hard days. Thank you for checking in with us.

  41. Hill,

    I just saw this post from December. I literally read every sentence several times before moving on to the next one. I wanted to take in each word and drag out the post as long as possible. As many have stated, I too think of you and Ezra (and of course Putney) often. I have two pictures from Ezra – both of them are of you and Putney. I feel many things when I look at them. Sadness, a longing to read a new post, anger about cancer and what it does to people…. But mostly I wonder about you. Where you are. What you are doing as you move through a life that has changed so much. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words to your love on his last birthday here on earth. It was very touching. Much love xx

  42. So sorry for your loss. I just found out that Ezra passed away. I used to follow this blog religiously!

    I was just curious if there was a book made of his pictures and struggles with cancer? His photographs were always so moving!


  43. I’m looking through my collection of Ezra’s photos tonight, H. I have been them I still have them in the clear plastic sleeves they were shipped in & I also kept the cardboard from each envelope with the “Big Love” and “xx Fast Boy” stickers. My favorite changes based on my mood. When I feel a bit lost I like the one of Putney standing in the forest & gazing into the distance. When I feel light hearted I like the headstand on the pier color one. The one he took in a mirror with his Pentax vertical & obscuring half his face brings tears to my eyes. One of my fave of his blog posts was the one about Gunnar coming over to dodder with E. Someday maybe some organized events across the US for those of us who followed & admired him so dearly to meet up?

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