Until a loved one is missing, no one considers how strange it is to talk about their loved one in the present tense. They text all the time, she wants to do x, he is excited about y... I mean, how would you know? But if you say they "were" then everyone jumps on that as a sign you have no hope or some complicity.
On February 8 2007 my 22 year old son Jesse died after a ten day coma, due to complications from APL leukemia. He and his younger brother had just lost their dad in January 2003, just a few months after Jesse had started college. Jesse's first round with leukemia was in July-August 2004. He recovered in time to push himself through University of Michigan on time, with good grades, chemo and all. This time, we weren't so lucky. Jesse, his brother and I have always used humor to fight fear and grief.