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Just an Illusion - Encore (The Illusion Series Book 5) by D. Kelly (1)

To Nate, and any of my other children who end up following him down this rabbit hole. Cadence, this also includes you.

Four books. That’s how many you’ve read by now if you’ve made it to this point. If you haven’t, stop and go back to the beginning. It’s a lot to ask of anyone. I’m sure you have expectations and fears—most people would by this point—but you’ve just read lots of things about your parents and family that most kids would never find out. I don’t think all kids should read about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but I don’t believe in family secrets. I do, however, believe in appropriate timing, which is why I’ll be waiting until your late teen years before offering you this story.

I know you’ve been bombarded with heavy and emotional topics. Forgive me if I’ve damaged you somehow. We can only do this one last time; it’s all our hearts can take. That means this book has to include everything: memories I need to have and the story you need to know. I hope we’ve raised you to be comfortable talking to us about any subject. If you keep reading, promise me you will skip anything which might make you feel uncomfortable.

Let’s talk about love. It’s the reason you’re reading these books in the first place. Nate deserves answers to all the questions I know he’s going to have about Noah, Mel, and me.

Love is the one thing that continuously grows in a family and should never dissipate. Growing up, my parents’ affection for us was felt as much as it was known. Hugs were endless in our house, so was their support and understanding. For me, it’s still hard to comprehend how there’s room in my heart to grow with each new child. There were times—especially when the twins were on their way—that I was afraid my heart couldn’t make any more space, but I was wrong. The heart has infinte room for love.

It’s ironic how we assign love to the heart. In all actuality, I think it resides in our souls. I’d never given it much thought until we lost Noah, and then I thought about it often. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, if I think about Noah, I sense him. I feel his love far and wide, and whatever makes it happen and brings on that sensation, well … I think it’s greater than the fist-sized organ residing in my chest. What it doesn’t explain is why the heart aches so much in relation to emotions, which is likely why most people link love with the heart. That pain is real and runs deep, leading me to believe our hearts are what tether us to our souls.

Loving my wife and kids is effortless. Parenthood, though, is scary. The responsibility, the fears, knowing how easily I could screw you all up, is overwhelming at times. Especially when it comes to Nate. Like all my kids, my love for him is indescribable, but so are my fears. I’m not just raising him for me, but for Noah too. Though I always knew fatherhood was in my future, I’d never imagined Noah wouldn’t be my partner in crime through the journey. Nor did I think for one moment there would ever be a time where I was raising his son for him. Without him here, I’m conscious of things I wouldn’t have been before. I do some things the way I think he would so our kids will benefit from Noah’s guidance and open heart. Although it isn’t how I pictured it, our kids are growing up together in the saddest yet best ways possible.

Damn, I miss him … every single day. When I first lost him, I missed him with every single breath. Having Nate with me has helped ease some of my pain. I may not have my brother anymore, but I have the best part of him with me, and I will never take that for granted.

Not having Noah around when Noelle was born was extremely difficult. He was the first person I wanted to show her to, the first person I wished could hold her and love on her, and it wasn’t possible. When the twins made their debut into the world, Noah’s absence hit me even harder. It was another milestone in my life my brother wasn’t here to experience. When we got the photos from the hospital, Mel started an album and put their pictures side by side with one of Noah and me at the same age. It’s surreal how much they look like us.

Princess’s goal was to finish my book before she went into labor. But the twins were eager to meet their parents, and Mel ended up on bedrest for two months. When that happened, I took all the notebooks and files away and put them in my office. The story could wait; my wife and babies’ health were my only concern.

After the twins came, it took us about a year to get back on track with the story. We wanted to finish, but we weren’t in a rush to get back to the upcoming sadness. When it was time to write again, I realized this half the story wasn’t as focused on Noah as I thought it would be. Although his presence is heavy throughout this part of the book—it’s more about me and how I changed as a person after one night in New York City.

Once I got over being disappointed the story had shifted from my original intention, I acknowledged it was a good thing. I wanted my kids to see people can change when they want to. There are no rules set in stone stating otherwise. Each day is a chance to change your course and make a new beginning for yourself. Your failures on Monday do not get to define who you are on Tuesday—not if you don’t want them to.

This story started out as something for Nate and me, and partially for Mel too, so she would know all the things that maybe she’d never asked. It was a way for me to let Nate know my love for him is infinite, as it is for all of my children. Nathaniel Noah Weston is my son, every day and in every way.

Now that we’re wrapping it up, I’m excited to share it despite my fears. Children should know their parents aren’t infallible. We make mistakes. Even on my most misguided days during this journey, everything I did stemmed from love, even if I didn’t see it back then. The one person who understood that before any of us was Noah, and I’m thankful he knew me as well as he did and loved me for me, flaws and all.

That’s how Mel and I love each of our kids. Remember, when you’re scared, frustrated, or disappointed, there isn’t much we haven’t seen or experienced, and we will never love you any less—it just isn’t possible. We hope you’ll come talk to us after you’ve let the story settle from start to finish and that you all come away from this journey with a better understanding of who your family actually is. Not just your aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents, but the people we are beneath those titles. Who we are to you is defined by much more than what you call us.

All our love, xoxo.

 

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