It was Mike’s birthday on March 22nd.
On this day, I will always “celebrate” him.
There will never be a birthday of his that I don’t think tenderly of him.
On his birthday I purposefully choose to remember the way he lived.
I celebrate the life and love we shared together.
This is how I try to honor him everyday – not just on his birthday.
That being the case, I admit that I want to do something more on his special day, but this year I went into the day without deciding what this might be. A plan didn’t seem as important this year as it did in previous years. Maybe because I have done this twice before, I sort of knew what to expect. As always, the day would come and he would be absent.
I know that there is nothig I need to do to adequately celebrate my dead fiance’s birthday. There is nothing I should do as a “proper” widow. The date exists, but Mike does not. And, it is incredibly hard to “celebrate” when the person you are honoring is absent; but, for me, I can not let the day pass without acknowledging it.
This is his third birthday I have celebrated without him. And, it passed easier than the two previous ones. I am not sure why, but I was not as emotional this year. Of course I missed him, like I do every single day; but on this third birthday the missing was not super overwhelming. I simply missed him as usual; and, not particularly more intensely because it was his birthday. You would assume that this would make me happy because maybe this is progress. But, like all things in grief, this change was bittersweet. I don’t feel good about it or necessarily bad about my less extreme emotional response to Mike’s birthday. It did surprise me though. I think maybe I am getting “used” to Mike’s absence. Maybe I am beginning to “accept” his deadness. I hate that he died and I am not sure I will ever accept his death in full. But, after nearly 2.5 years living without him I think being alone has become routine.
Below, I have written about the “birthday routine” I have developed to help me successfully celebrate Mike’s day without him. Maybe this will help others who are facing a birthdate without their person. ~S.
In the grief world people do all different types of things to mark birthdays. The way we choose to celebrate our person are varied. The only thing constant is that the celebrations are fitting for those who died. I like that. Not one type of birthday celebration will do because the people we are honoring are separate, unique individuals.
To honor their person, some people release balloons and the environmentalist scold them, others set off lanterns that are biodegradable – they don’t receive any backlash. Some choose to cook their person’s favorite meal. Some people gather friends and family together. Some go to the cemetery. Some have cake. Some people spend the day alone – in bed. There really is no correct way to mark a birthday for someone who died, or for someone who is living for that matter.
For me, on significant days, I find that I am less out of sorts if I have a plan of some kind. When special days occur on the calendar I prefer to organize something. If I don’t plan something, then grief leads me places I don’t want to go. And, this year, I decided that having a loose plan was good enough. I followed my instincts and I suggest you do too. This year, I didn’t need to organize an elaborate celebration to mark Mike’s third unbirthday.
Still, creating a shape for the day is what works best for me. You might be different. Grief has many commonalities, but each of our experiences is unique. So, I think that we should do whatever is best for us. We should do whatever soothes our Soul.
Because I love to write, it’s not surprising that I will write Mike a birthday letter. I will go to the grave and tie a balloon to the shepherd’s hook I have placed with love behind his headstone. To Mike, there will be a handwritten message on his birthday balloon.
I will stand there, on his grave, wishing with all my heart that things were different. I will play him some of our favorite songs, and I will toast him with his favorite wine. And, then I will cry. (And, I cried a lot less than I expected on his third birthday.)
Before I leave, I will read Mike his birthday letter. And, then, I will cry some more. My graveside visit is very precise and somewhat predictable because I have completed this ritual for all our significant dates. I know how it feels. I know what to expect. And, I find it comforting in some strange way. For me, it feels right to honor Mike in this way. My rituals are sacred and intimate for us.
Mike’s life was bigger than my ritual of reading him a birthday letter and toasting him with a glass of Malbec. His love for me was deeper than just me, standing at his graveside offering a balloon to the man she loves. But, this will have to do.
I honor Mike every day – in both big and small ways. Daily, I credit him with the profound impact he has on my life. I believe that we naturally “celebrate” our person, in their absence, every day of the year.
These last few years, I didn’t buy him a birthday card, instead I wrote him a heartfelt letter. I also did not buy him a gift because, well, he was dead and he couldn’t open it. But, it felt strange to “celebrate” his birthday with no gifts. I felt the need to figure out how to make his birthday feel more like a real and authentic birthday celebration. Then, all of a sudden, an idea came to me.
Mike died. But, I didn’t. I am still very much alive. So, thinking outside the box, I bought myself a gift to celebrate Mike’s birthday. It felt kind of strange and awkward. But, I also felt good because I know that it made him happy that I was doing something special for me – in honor of him – on his birthday.
My gesture had nothing to do with the “gift” itself. The gift was symbolic because I actively acknowledged that I was still here. I celebrated that I am alive and that I can still enjoy life; while also remembering and honoring Mike.
I’ve decided that it will always be my tradition to gift myself something on Mike’s birthday. When he was alive he spoiled me; and, he loved to surprise me with gifts. He bought me inexpensive little trinkets and he also gave me very beautiful gifts. It was never the gift that was important to me. It was the way in which the gift was given to me. Mike gave to me from his heart. Whatever he offered me was given with all his love; and, therefore, it was a treasure to me.
When Mike was alive, everyday felt like a celebration. Ordinary days were magical. And, I want those days back. I want to be able to share my life with him the way we imagined we would. But, this can’t be. So instead here are some words to help you know the man I love.
Mike loved life more than anyone I’ve ever know.
And, oh, how life loved him right back.
It was a privilege for me to watch him live with so much unbridled enthusiasm.
His love of life was completely contagious.
I come by it honestly,
I have caught what Mike had. And, I am a better woman for it.
Mike was spontaneous.
Just like a traditional game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey,
when you were with Mike,
you knew you were going to laugh;
but the laughter was richer than you remembered it could be.
With Mike, it was a hearty,
throw your head back,
mouth wide open,
eyes crinkling kind of laughter.
It was magic.
And, I miss it.
Just like a good chocolate cake,
Mike’s personality was rich and dense.
People wanted seconds of what Mike was serving.
To know him was to love him.
He was genuine and he touched everyone he met.
Mike’s heart was sweet like the frosted icing on a cake.
And, his voice would fill the room.
His voice was strong and it echoed off the walls
with the same excitement and furry that children have while they play musical chairs.
To him, an ordinary conversation was so engaging that he leaned in to every word.
Mike would tell a story and people gathered round him just like children crowd around a candy dish.
People were naturally drawn to him.
Mike could hold a table like no one else I know.
I miss watching people’s eyes light up from his words.
If you sat at Mike’s table,
it was guaranteed that a smile would spread across your face as he drew you closer.
Mike was full of whimsy and he was spontaneous just like a jack-in-the-box toy.
You never knew what would fly out his mouth.
I loved this.
He was so dang funny without even meaning to be.
I miss the joy he brought to an ordinary day.
I accept that I will miss his presence in my life – for the rest of my life.
It was an honor to love him.
And, a privilege to be be loved by him.
So, today, on March 22nd I will celebrate Mike and all that he was.
Loving him and being loved by him is “like having all my Birthdays in One day” .
All my Love,