Monday, August 8, 2011

A New Birthday Norm


By Kate Collins

That I was dreading my birthday was an understatement. All last week I wept every morning about not having my husband there to celebrate with me. Why celebrate at all? What was there to feel good about?

In the past, my special day would start with a surprise – a gift my husband had chosen and then hid. I’d open a cabinet, drawer, refrigerator, or whatever, and there would be a wrapped box. He always made it exciting. Then we’d go in to Chicago to dine at one of our favorite restaurants with our daughters, who live there. Years past, our sons lived there, too, and we’d all gather together to eat and laugh and eat some more.

This year, my kids went into action. My daughter organized a surprise party and together with her brother and stepsister, decorated, cooked, grilled, baked, and, most importantly, ordered me out of the kitchen. I was told not to even think about helping. I had to sit on my hands for a few hours, but what a treat!

All of the people who are closest to me came, the ones who have lifted me up these past months and helped me stay grounded. The day passed and I smiled most of the way through it. And all the while, I felt my husband’s presence. I could almost hear him saying, “Way to go, sweetheart. Honor my life by enjoying yours.”

At the end of the day I sat down with my laptop and a glass of wine and read my Facebook messages. There were nearly 300 birthday wishes and that finally did bring me to tears.

What a day this has been. It was not my normal birthday, for sure, but it also wasn’t anything to dread. Next up is my wedding anniversary, another “first” to get through without my beloved Greek. The kids are already making plans, however, so I’m in good hands.

Have you had to get through a special day without someone you loved? How did you do it?

17 comments:

Sarita said...

My husband passed away recently. Right after, a bunch of our special days tore me to pieces. Valentine's Day. My birthday. Our anniversary. His birthday. One after the other. I can't lie. It was awful, but I survived. I tried to celebrate the life we've lived rather than mourn the life together we've lost. It's all so hard, every bit of being without my sweet man. This week the anniversary of the day we met. Always something special here, a big day of joyful celebration. I'll miss that. I miss him.

I am so glad the troops rallied around and lifted you when you truly needed them. It sounds like you had a lovely birthday, and I am happy for you.

Happy birthday, Kate! Wishing you many peaceful moments.

Pj Schott said...

My solution was to not have birthdays any more.

Andrea C. said...

I must say your children have been amazing. You have written multiple blogs about how they have gone above and beyond to help make several events, holidays, and occasions a little bit better for you during this very difficult year. I am so glad they did it again for your birthday! Best Wishes!
P.S. Everyone should have facebook birthdays; they make you feel so loved! :)

Anonymous said...

I read your blogs every time they come up on the Cozy Chicks page. I've followed you during the ups and downs during these past few months. I have to say, your family and friends are the best. They've rallied around you during every occasion that they knew would be hard for you. I haven't had to know that kind of pain. Yes, I've lost my grandparents and my two dogs growing up but its not the same. You are right though, or even more your husband is right by saying "Honor my life by enjoying yours." That's the part that makes me tear up because its so true. For years I've dreaded my birthday for a different reason, since it's on 9/11, how could I celebrate a birthday that so many people have died on? It wasn't until last year that my mom said to me, "It's still your birthday because I had you." It's the people in our lives that help us through the darkest moments, even if they aren't here to enjoy them. Your a strong woman, Kate. Your an even stronger woman for sharing your ups & downs with your readers. Your family, friends & readers are behind you. Now, that's something to smile about it. I may be a day late in saying this but Happy Birthday and I wish you many more happy memories.
~Amy

dollycas aka Lori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dollycas aka Lori said...

You truly deserved a wonderful birthday and your kids didn't disappoint. Your husband will always be there for you in your heart. He would want you to have many, many more happy birthdays shared with friends and family. Plus all your FB friends sending you virtual love is just icing on the cake. I am so happy you had a happy day!!!

Lori

NoraA said...

My favorite sister in law died of cancer in her late 30's. We were all devastated by our loss, especially my daughters who were so close to their aunt.

What we do is to remember all the great times she shared with us, and try to make some new memories to keep next to the ones of her.

BDaley said...

My heart hurts for you. I lost my husband very suddenly 10 years ago while we were out for a walk. Everyone expects the " firsts" to be tough, and they are. I still find some special days tougher than others, but like you I've been blessed with a wonderful support system of friends and family. On the first Valentine's Day my daughter came to my work with a huge bouquet of flowers...I cried and was so grateful. On the first Mother's Day my three children took me to a Red Sox game which was the perfect thing to do. Somehow, we get through...not as well as we did when our special ones were here, but nevertheless we get through. And the day will come when there is true joy back in your heart again...I promise. Happy Birthday to a special lady.

Aurian said...

Congratulations with your birthday Kate. And I am so glad your children made this a day to remember with a smile for you.
I am lucky not to have lost a very close person yet, so I can not really relate to your pain, but I can imagine how it would be.

Jamie Lee Scott said...

I celebrate for a week, because the older I get the happier I am to have a next birthday, and a next. Even though I've lost several close family members I tell myself death is harder on the living than the dead, and I move on by celebrating living. We only get one chance at this, and I want to make the most of it, as I expect my family and friends would want too.

Kate Collins said...

Thank you, ladies, for your tender comments. I am indeed a lucky woman to have close friends and family who care. I've always emphasized to my kids that family matters, that family will be there when no one else may be -- or at least they SHOULD be there. (Sometimes when my son and daughter are at odds with each other, I REALLY remind them.) LOL

Barbara said...

Christmas is a tough one for me because my mother died two days after that holiday many years ago. Until recent years we handled it by traveling through Christmas and New Year's. We don't have family nearby and no children, so it was perfect going away. Now we rarely travel because of health issues but sort of ignore Christmas.

Linda McDonald said...

"Honor my life by enjoying yours,"....that is so beautiful and so true and I think that is exactly how we get through a special day. It doesn't mean it will be easy, but I think our loved ones would be so proud of us for doing just that. Happy Birthday to you Kate, and God Bless your wonderful children who always seem to step up to the plate and then some.

Candace said...

Kate, Happy Birthday :) What a beautiful testament to a life well-lived by your husband...honoring him by living yours. I am so proud of you!

Chris said...

I am so glad your family and friends made your day a special one!

Vicki said...

Happy Birthday and many more to come. The first Christmas after losing my brother to cancer many years ago was extremely difficult. But 4 years ago i lost a beloved cousin in a sudden, horrific manner. I have no children being 18 years older, I cared for him as if he were my own. From infancy, schook programs etc. In fact, one of the last things he said to me was "I'll always be your baby." As that was our running joke, that no matter how old he was, he would always be my baby. My birthday was almost 3 weeks after his death. Needless to say, I did not want to celebrate. Another cousin had a birthday party for his twins on my birthday and I attended hoping no one would remember mine and focus on the children. His wife and older daughter brought out a cake for me and had a present table set aside for me as well. As heartbroken as I was at my loss, I was reminded how loved I was by the large wonderful family I had and how I would always carry the lost loved ones in my heart until I see them again. Your blogs have been a great help to me in remembering that and while I am so sorry for your loss, thank you for sharing.

Kate Collins said...

Vicki,

Thank YOU for sharing that lovely post. I always hope my blogs will touch someone's heart.