On his 17th birthday we reflected that, were he here, he would be commencing driving lessons and planning his future. On his 18th birthday we wondered if he would have been going to University and on his 21st birthday we wondered if he would have been successfully graduating from a course and seeking work or further studies.
Birthdays have become a time when we as a family have asked ourselves a lot of "what if?" and "if only?" questions that have served to remind us how much we have missed of Andrew's life and how very different things are to any expectations we may ever have had.
Andrew's birthday has become a painful day for us, in complete contrast with his first 14 birthdays, always very happy occasions marking milestones in his life. Now we light a candle to express our hope that he is alive and may make contact with us. We place flowers in our church, usually including yellow sunflowers to express the same hope.
One year, unable to sleep the night before Andrew's birthday, all I could think about was that we had not been able to buy or give him the gifts we would have liked to. In the end I wrote down some names of children we know, randomly drew one out, went online and bought them a small "unbirthday" gift. This too has become our habit.
This year, in addition, with the help of friends, we are asking if readers might help the charity Missing People to mark Andrew's birthday and the anniversary of his disappearance? All is explained here on the Justgiving page "There in Spirit". Missing People help to prevent many kids going missing and help to find them when they do. Any support you are able to give, no matter how small, may save a family the heartache we have felt year on year, so thank you if you feel able to contribute.