Friday, January 13, 2017

Learning to Celebrate Again

I guess this is my week to talk about Joe.  Our birthday.  December 30.  A day that used to be celebrated together!

When he was little, we would combine our candles and celebrate with the same cake.  So many memories of sweet times together.

Since we lost Joe nine years ago, our birthday has been difficult.  It didn't feel right to celebrate my birthday, OUR birthday, alone.  It was impossible to feel that I wanted to celebrate, even though that made it awkward for everyone around me.  My sisters didn't know what to say when they phoned me.

Happy Birthday?  Or not.  I'm sorry?

Each person was so sweet in trying to navigate the day that used to be so happy.  We tried to celebrate just Joe on that day.  We would go to an arcade, try to laugh, play games, and eat all his favorite foods.  We learned to get through that day by honoring Joe.

But that still left my family at a loss in how to celebrate my birthday.  I was okay just letting it pass, but that was especially hard for my mom and kids.

My sister, Amber, did find a beautiful way to celebrate us both.  A charm bracelet--giving me a charm each year on my birthday--with every charm depicting a special memory of Joe.  There's a dog bone for his love of pets, a baseball mitt, a globe representing his love of travel (and awesome trip to Mexico with my parents), a canoe for our adventures at the cabin.

I often say that the grief of losing a child doesn't get any easier.  Time does NOT heal all wounds. But we do learn how to bury that grief.  We learn how to live with it.  How to carry it on our backs in a way that doesn't bring us sobbing and collapsing to our knees daily.  

What choice do we have?

What I'm finding now is that, while there are times that feel as raw and painful as that first hour, the happy memories bubble up out of the grief more often.  And they come without that burning fire that usually followed.  

As the years have gone by, I've learned to celebrate my birthday, OUR birthday, together--for Joe.  He wouldn't want me to stop celebrating.  I did it for him.

But this year I was able to celebrate my birthday, OUR birthday, not just for Joe, not just for my family, but for me too.  

And I know that makes Joe really happy.  

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