It’s his birthday this week. March 22nd. On this day, I will always “celebrate” Mike. There will never be a March 22nd that I don’t spend with 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 I haven’t completely decided what this might be.
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 plan something. If I don’t organize something, then grief leads me places I don’t want to go. 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 lovingly placed 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. Before I leave, I will read Mike his birthday letter. And, then, I will cry some more. My graveside visit is very precise and 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.
However, I am an overachiever and I outgrow routine quickly; so, this year, I want to do more to mark his birthday. I feel it is necessary. 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, his widow, standing at his graveside offering a balloon to the man she loves. (For those of you who did these exact things please know that your gestures were perfect as they are. Nothing more is needed to honor your loved one’s birthday. It’s just me. This year, I know that I need to change things up.)
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 think we all do this as widows and widowers. I believe that we naturally “celebrate” our person, in their absence, every day of the year. Yet, for me, my Soul is calling me to do something more on for Mike on his birthday this year, I just haven’t figured out what…
Last year, 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. I felt kind of sassy. 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.
He 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 and he made me appreciate things I knew, but with time had forgotten. 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 will miss his presence in my life – for the rest of my life.
This year I will keep with tradition I will give myself a gift on his birthday, but I will also expand on this tradition. I want to do something in Mike’s name to celebrate the birth date of the man I love. I don’t know what I will do yet, but it will be big and bold just like his love for me is.
It was an honor to love him. And, a privilege to be be loved by him. So, on March 22nd I will celebrate Mike and all that he was.
Mike, Honey, loving you and being loved by you is “like having all my Birthdays in One day” .
All my Love,