As I sit here today looking at the date, I’ve always been one to dread it – celebrating something for someone that is no longer living has always hurt my heart.
That was then.
Things are different now.
For the last 16 years, I have been a motherless daughter. Elizabeth (“Betsy” as everyone called her) was my beautiful mother for 18 years of my life. I’ve never told too many people about her or what she meant to me.
I didn’t figure people would care.
I’m not the only person without a mom.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with the death of a loved one, have a different way of celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, death dates etc. My approach has always been to know about it in my heart, acknowledge it in my own way and move on with my day. Dwelling on it or thinking about it too much just makes me incredibly sad. I’ve had enough sad in my life.
Today my mom would have been 61 years old.
Why am I talking about it now rather than on her 60th? Why not. Age has no limits. Even in death.
My relationship with my mom has always been something that I’ve fiercely guarded, telling only the most trusting of people about her, to be able to keep something for myself. To say that it has put a crimp on my communication with others would be an understatement. I need to share. I need to let things start to flow from the bottle of emotions that I’m ever so good at hiding.
I once had someone ask me, “Why do you celebrate birthdays and anniversary death dates? It seems a little morbid”. My reply (if I remember correctly) was: it’s just what we do in my family. It’s what people do when they lose someone they care about. They try to remember anything and everything about them. They are trying to hold on to their memory by celebrating them after death. Not knowing if other families did this or not, but we did. My mom was born and raised Catholic. That might explain some things I’m sure. She went to Catholic schools and raised her children Catholic as well. Maybe it’s a religion thing. Who knows.
I celebrated every birthday with my mom. Every holiday. Kind of hard not to do when I was only 18 when I lost her. She would make things so special, especially for birthdays – Baking cakes, throwing parties for us with other kids from the neighborhood. She never made a big deal about her own birthday, I don’t know if she would have wanted others to make a big deal out of it for her. That’s just how she was. She never communicated all that much unless she was angry about something and even then, she would bottle it up, let it fester, and then blow her lid. Gee, I wonder where I get that behavior?
For some reason I remember a lot of other celebrations with my mom, not necessarily her birthday. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I was there for her last one or not. I knew my mom was sick again when I came home for Christmas break that year, but we were dealing with the loss of my grandpa early January that came as a shock to many of us, even at 84 years old.
Why is this birthday different for me you might ask? I know I have been. A very close friend that I’ve known for a very long time said to me last year on her birthday, “I just don’t understand why you don’t celebrate her birthday like you normally would if she were here?”
I didn’t know either. It made me sad to think I had been treating it as a sad day all this time. It’s different this time around because very soon now, I will be a mom. I will get to figure out all the ways to celebrate my child’s birthday and make it special just as she did for her kids. My mom was the one that taught us how to celebrate our birthdays. I still get sad on mine because she isn’t here to celebrate it with me but I know in my heart that she did everything she could to make it special. She spoiled me. Even as an adult I still want to be spoiled like that. Now, I get my chance to spoil someone else. And I can’t wait.
So Happy Birthday Mom! Thank you for teaching me the meaning of celebrating a birthday. To appreciate why that person is/was a part of our lives, to celebrate their life and what it means to us.
Cheers mom – raising a glass of milk to you tonight.