It is Mike’s 65th birthday today.
On March 22nd, 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 planning anything elaborate even though it is a milestone birthday. For whatever reason, a plan didn’t seem as important this year as it did in previous years. Maybe because I have done this four times before, I sort of know what to expect.
The day comes and the birthday boy is absent. I know that there is nothing I need to do to adequately celebrate my dead fiance’s birthday. There is nothing I should do as a “proper” widow. And, besides, really, what can be done? He is gone from here and here I am without him. So, to celebrate I just love him. And, today, I love him a little harder because it is his birthday. I hope he can feel it wherever he is…
The date exists, but Mike does not.
Wow. Read that line again. This is really the heart of the problem isn’t it. Mike’s birthday will come around every year on March 22nd, but he will be gone. This will never change. *Sigh.
It is incredibly hard to “celebrate” when the person you are honoring is absent; still, for me, I can not let the day pass without acknowledging it. As the years go by the day has taken on less and less of a birthday feel. It is really more of a day to pay tribute to a life well lived.
This is his fifth birthday that I have celebrated without Mike. And, thankfully, the lead up to today has been gentler than previous ones. I am very preoccupied with my move and maybe this is why I am less emotional this year about Mike’s birthday. Of course I missed him – I do this every single day no matter what day it is. However, this birthday the missing is not super overwhelming like in years past. This birthday, I simply missed him like usual; and, it is not particularly more intense. The truth is, after 4.4 years, I am getting “used” to Mike’s absence. Finally, I have accepted his deadness. I absolutely hate that he died; but, after years of living without him being alone has become what I know.
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.
The Unbirthday Routine
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 fifth unbirthday. I just am going to wake up and go to the grave and think of him tenderly with all the love that is in my lonely heart… This is what I’ve got and that is what I will offer to him.
In the past, creating a shape for the day is what has worked 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 feels right in our Soul. This year, something simple is what is best for me.
Because I love to write, it’s not surprising that I have written Mike a birthday letter in years past. But, this year, I won’t. I just don’t want to. I have no words to share with him. It is his birthday… the date exists and he does not. I don’t have anything else to add to this. Still, despite me being less than verbose, this fifth year, I will still go to Mike’s grave. I will leave him a glass of wine and place some other kitschy birthday decorations at his headstone. It all feels sort of dumb to me this year. I am kind of pissed off about him being dead. I am living my life the best way I can without him, but it is unfair and it is just so damn hard. It is mostly empty living my life without him. Again and again I ask myself how a man so full of life can be lifeless? Well… he just is. There is no answer to my question. *Sigh.
As his dutiful widow I will go to his grave and miss Mike on his birthday. Further than this, I have nothing this year. And, this is okay. I will stand quietly at his grave, wishing with all my heart that things were different. I will play Mike some of our favorite songs, and I will toast him with his favorite wine. And, then I will cry.
In years past, I read Mike his birthday letter. And, then, I cried some more. But, this year, there are no words. I haven’t anything to say besides “I love you Mike.” and “I miss you to the depths of me”.
I do not go to the grave anymore because it doesn’t give me the peace that it used to. The last time I was at the grave was Christmas morning… On special dates I go to visit him graveside because I want to honor his absence. My visits are short and sweet and very precise. My time at the grave has grown predictable because I have completed this ritual for all our significant dates. I know how exactly how it feels. I know what to expect.
In the past, I found being graveside comforting. For me, it felt right to honor Mike in this way. The ritual actions were sacred and intimate for us. But, now, as my grief is evolving, these graveside visits have become less comforting to me. They feel sort of empty and somewhat rote. Still, out of duty and love I go on special days because I want to honor him. I have come to doubt that I will continue to spend holidays and special dates graveside. This surprises me because at the beginning I thought I would visit him forever; but, now I know that I won’t. I can feel it, Mike doesn’t like me paying homage to him there. He is not there anyways. He lives on in me.
Mike’s life was bigger than my past 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 birthday balloon to the man she loves. But, what is a dead man’s wife to do? There is no manual for any of this shit.
As the years go on, 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 “celebrate” him, in his absence, every single day of the year.
These last four 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 good 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, it 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 incredibly funny without even meaning to be. I miss the joy he brought to an ordinary day. And, 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,