January 8th would have been my beloved Mom’s 78th birthday. She went home to God 28 months ago after a courageous battle with cancer. The first January 8th without her was horrific, I think we all just cried. Last year was a little better – we attended morning Mass but still struggled deeply to get through the day. This year is different. Despite the dreadful ache in my heart from missing her, I yearn to honor Mom in a meaningful way. I want to celebrate Joan Mary’s birthday. Am I crazy to want a birthday celebration in honor of my mom who is in heaven?
After pondering this for awhile I decided to do some research to find out what other folks struggling with grief have done on their loved ones birthdays. What I found was astounding…and inspiring. Using only google and clicking around on different sites, the following ideas were shared by folks around the globe:
- We listen to music, sing, dance and enjoy each other. Keeping this day a happy one as well as keeping our son’s memory alive.
- We decided that we 3 daughters will meet at mom’s graveside & have our own little birthday party, complete with Margaritas since that was her favorite.
- My kids and I are celebrating my Dad with Frosty’s from Wendy’s because those were his favorite!
- We all meet at my husband’s favorite restaurant for his birthday, to honor him.
- We go to my son’s grave and let out some balloons and talk about all the happy times we had with him. We then go for a meal and raise a glass in his honor, thankful that we had this wonderful person for 30 years.
- I celebrate my late husband’s birthday by performing “Random Acts of Kindness”. I anonymously pay for someone’s lunch. I buy bouquets of flowers and leave them on car windshields in a parking lot. And, since my husband loved books, I go to the bookstore and leave $10 bills tucked in books he loved.
There were many more wonderful ideas shared but they all had one thing in common: celebrate, honor and remember the life of your loved one. I took comfort in this discovery. For some reason, I thought folks suffering from the loss of a loved one stayed quiet on that person’s birthday. I imagined it was appropriate to just silently acknowledge the day but not do anything celebratory. I was delighted to read notes from folks who had found the temporary remedy to their grief – celebrate the life of the person they loved.
With all of these great ideas in mind, I have new plans for tomorrow. Weather permitting, I will drive to Cape Cod to attend morning Mass with my beautiful Dad at the parish where my parents prayed, laughed and found much joy together. I’ll get a big bouquet of yellow roses or whatever flower is in bloom for Mom’s grave. It has to be yellow – mom’s favorite color. Then I’ll pick up a few treats for my kids. My mom was queen of the treats growing up. She always had a little something for us after school or a game which made everything better. Then I’ll make a pasta dinner since my mom was an incredible Italian cook. Throughout the day I’ll recite my rosary, following in the footsteps of Mom, who taught me how to find God through the arms of Mary. Through it all, I will try to offer love through random acts of kindness as suggested by others online. My mom lived a life of selfless, prayerful service to everyone. Doing something kind for another person, especially in today’s tumultuous world, would make her truly happy and be the best gift I could offer for her birthday.
But, I’m not fooling myself – I know that January 8th will be difficult. Folks online who had lost loved ones 30 years ago shared that birthdays are still hard for them. It’s only been a little over 2 years for me. But at least I’ll be doing something positive this year rather than sitting home quietly. I’ll be celebrating the woman who loved me more than anyone, who made me better than I could have ever been without her and who introduced me to the God who lifts me up as often as I fall. Happy 78th Birthday in heaven Momma! I love you as deeply today as I did the day God called you home – more, if that’s possible.