Celebrating After Grief
Yesterday was my second birthday without my dad and little brother. Last year Dad had been gone less than three months when September 11 came. I wanted to do nothing, celebrate nothing and altogether forget the word ‘celebrating’. As a family, we were never huge party throwers for birthdays anyway, but Dad always brought flowers, chocolates and a handwritten card for the occasion. And my brother always called and texted me to tell me he loved me and was thinking about me. Last year was hell. I cried almost all day and while I wanted to badly to fake smiles and laughs for my kids, I ended up crying anyway. Their faces said what I already knew: mom was nuts.
This year was also hard. Same day of celebrating and same two dudes missing. This only meant I was to repeat my everyday heartache, except with candles. My sister called and demanded to know what we were doing for yesterday. She told me we WERE doing something. She wasn’t taking no for an answer and after 34 years of her in my life, I knew she was serious.
“Sis, you know I hate my birthday. It’s 9/11 and it just makes me miss the boys even more. Let’s just forget it.”
She held in her breath on the other end of the phone. She was thinking of how to chastise me while knowing all along I was right. (She hates celebrating her birthday these days too.)
“Well, Lindsey, look at it like this: yes it sucks. It probably always will. But perhaps it isn’t for you the celebrating needs to happen. Maybe we all need a day to revolve around you so it doesn’t revolve around anything else.”
I really hate it when she makes sense.
So we planned a small dinner. At a restaurant in town so no one would have to cook. There was laughter and small gifts from my kids and smiles all around. There were clinking glasses and fun and while I worried my two boys would be forgotten in the midst of our merriment, Dad’s favorite Elvis song played over the speakers at one point during dinner. And there they were, fully present and alert in our celebration.
All the birthdays from now on will be hard. They are supposed to be. Just as are all the other holidays and monumental events in my family’s life. But what I am learning about celebrating after grief is that it has it’s own beautiful moments, memories and joys and sometimes, there is cake.
Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/maenoellefoto/