Bittersweet day. A very difficult day for the family. For my sister-in-law, it is loving the children that are here, but mourning the one that she lost. For me, it was acknowledging how big of a part my husband played in making Mother’s Day an ‘event’. This year it seemed as though the two of us hit the crazy zone at the same time and were absolute nut cases going into Mother’s Day.
I know I was a little crazed. I didn’t really even want to celebrate the day. I went to bed the night before thinking about how hard it must be for many people, not just for me. For those women who had lost children, women who never had children, women and men who never knew their mothers, or who had and had never liked them, for those who suffer or suffered abuse at the hands of their mothers. This ‘one size’ day of celebration could be a nightmare for many. Fortunately I woke up to the smell of eggs benedict and sausage cooking, an effective way to banish such thoughts!
Through the years Mother’s Day has typically been an awesome day for me. Because I had my children and their father to make it special. With Kevin gone it has lost a lot of its lustre, it carries a tinge of sadness that it shouldn’t. Now, what I hope is that my children, each with their own spouses, will make each and every day special for them, for their partners and their children. Look to their future, love what they have. I loved what I had and I am thankful that I had it. But now for me, as to Mother’s Day as an event, meh, I can do without it.
Another heavily promoted day to share with those you love. Coming out of Christmas and heading into Valentine’s, it just keeps the wound open.
For the three of four years before he got sick, Kevin and I would celebrate Valentine’s Day. We would do it in style, with another couple we were friends with, actually it was a teacher he taught with. The males would coordinate the meal, serve us and always there was a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine that went with the meal. That was Kev’s contribution, anything less than $40 a bottle was ‘swill’, and it wasn’t unusual to have a bottle that cost a whole bunch more. It was always a fun evening, especially if Kevin had a drink, he was not a drinker at all and so things could get pretty outrageous if he had a glass or two. These are the memories I have of Valentine’s Day.
Fast forward to the present, and all around me people are planning their special evening. At work there is a fundraiser for the United Way, buy a bouquet and support the Way. All I can think of is the reality that my husband isn’t here to buy me flowers anymore. Not that he did often, he had a thing about buying something dead (flowers) and giving it as a gift. Early on in our marriage he’d tell me that he could hear the flowers scream in pain as they were being picked. Still, occasionally he would get me some. He’s the only one I ever wanted them from. No one else.
That’s what Valentine’s Day does for me, reminds me of sadness. A dull throbbing sadness now, still just as deep, just not as sharp. I don’t think I’m the only one. I see people all around me who are on their own, with no one to make their day ‘special’. I doubt that they get a warm fuzzy feeling about the day. I suspect it wouldn’t be so bad if big box store marketing campaigns hadn’t made it into such a pressure to celebrate. It’s really not fair on a multitude of levels, but I never ever thought about it until I was one of have-nots watching from the outside.
Or at least it was. Yesterday I had my first birthday without my husband, Kevin, around. He was around for the last 33 of them. It was a day like any other day, which is how it needed to be. So how was it really? It went like this. I woke up in the morning and cried. Not body-racking sobs, just quiet tears of sadness. I got a few text messages from my kids and family, gentle and tentative reach-outs to let me know they hadn’t forgotten, but also that they were unsure. So was I. I debated whether or not I would be able to go to work. Could I keep it together? It would have been so easy to stay home. The last thing I wanted to do was see anyone.
I went to work. A few people were aware it was my birthday, and so I had a few well-wishers. I did what anyone would do, thanked them and then moved on. Mercifully, there was no fuss. It was a day like any other day. Except that I knew it wasn’t. The thing is not to think about it. Easier said than done, but when I was able to immerse myself in reading, I actually forgot for a while. It all came back though when it was time to head home.
Pulling into the driveway I was, again, crying – tears streaming down my face. There would be no one to greet me at the door. No one to question me about working on my birthday. Nothing bugged Kevin more than when I would work on my birthday. He was amazed that anyone would. Birthdays in his world were about being indulged and being indulgent. So if I worked on my birthday, I knew when I walked in the door he’d be telling me to think about getting ready to go out. He’d ‘splash the cash’ and take me and whichever of the kids were around out for a nice dinner. My daughter’s fiance is born on the same day as me. So we merged the celebrations and still Kevin paid – he was on the hook no matter what – and he was resigned to that fact and happily coughed up the cash.
So this year I came home to an empty house – no Kevin. It’s just so very sad. I did, however, have plans for dinner and so was only home for an hour or so and then back out for dinner with the ladies. A different group of ladies – the ones from my grief group. The night was really just a get-together as a final thank you to the facilitators and members of the group for sharing and caring through the eight weeks of the class. They did know it was my birthday and it was handled very well. They’ve faced these milestones before and understand that for this year, at least, it’s modified slightly. It’s not ‘Happy Birthday”; it may sound almost the same, but this year for me it’s ‘have a birthday’. That’s all it was, this year I have a birthday. Maybe next year it will be back to happy birthday, I am not sure. The year ahead is unknown, the birthdays are unrelenting – they come regardless of circumstance. It’s up to me I guess as to whether I have a birthday or I have a Happy Birthday.
Tonight a good friend of yours stopped by, Kevin. He stopped by to share a video clip that he had put together. I knew it would be sad, lovely but sad, and it was. He wanted me to see the graduation video for the 2015 grade 8 class. He did a music video, just like you guys would do every year. This year he used the song from Fast and Furious 7, See You Again. As the song ends on the graduation video, a picture flashes on the screen and there you are my love – large as life, sharing love and peace. Needless to say, it made me cry. I miss you so much that sometimes I forget how much other people, your friends, miss you too.
Tomorrow it’s your birthday. We will gather together, hopefully in light and laughter and certainly in tears and sorrow, to form a tight circle of family for the day. No one needs to say how much you are missed; it’s painfully obvious to anyone who knows us. It’s a crazy type of day, really. We can hardly ‘celebrate’ your birthday without you here, at least not this first year. A better way to express what tomorrow will be about is to use the word ‘acknowledgement’. We will acknowledge our loss and continue to build on the foundation of family so important to living and giving as we move through this world. Tomorrow will be a day to appreciate each other, the family that you created and that continues on.
What thoughts go through my head? Here I am addressing words to you like you are still here. It will be five months on Saturday since you died. Five months where every day I have thought about you. I wish I knew more or cared less; it might make my journey less painful.
Your journey, I trust, has resolved into an aspect of being or an essence of spirit where you are surrounded by all that is gentle, kind and good. This is my birthday wish for you forever and always.