My birthday was this past weekend. It was the fourth one I’ve had since my husband died, and the first one in years I’ve actually enjoyed.
Five birthdays ago – the last one I had with Tom by my side – we spent the day driving to his workplace to say good-bye to co-workers and sign some paperwork. It wouldn’t have been so bad if my husband were leaving his job to take some great new one. But no, he was saying good-bye because he was going to die. I can’t remember why we decided to do this on my birthday of all days.
I really don’t remember the next two. Last year, I remember being in a horribly foul mood and running off someplace to spend time crying bitterly. It was not exactly the picture of stoic grief I’d like to pretend I exude.
This year I was prepared for the worst, and really, the week leading up to Saturday seemed poised to prove this year would once again be bad. I set myself up to expect the kids would forget (they did) and my mom would buy me a gift of clothes that were neither my style nor size (she didn’t disappoint).
But then, maybe because I expected it to be bad, it wasn’t so awful after all. My 13-year old – who of all the kids is most molded in the likeness of his dad – biked two miles down the road to buy me a card and a chocolate bar when he found out it was my birthday. We went to a fancier restaurant that served Turkish food, and no one complained about the strange food they were trying. Then we went home and rather than me having to serve up my own cake and ice cream, the kids took care of that.
Maybe it’s because the kids are older. Maybe it’s because I am older. But all in all, it was a lovely day…although it still didn’t come without tears.
Take Time for Yourself on Your Birthday
My gift to myself this birthday was to take time out to reflect. To give myself permission to be sad – but not for the whole day. Only part of it.
To make room for the tears I knew would come, I debated about whether to go to a movie or go to dinner by myself but ultimately decided to head outside. Everything from the clouds to the temperature seemed perfect, and it was too good of a day to waste indoors.
At the suggestion of a friend, I headed out to new-to-me park with a trail that surrounds a lake. Can I tell you? It was so perfect and beautiful. Pictures simply don’t do it justice.
I purposely didn’t take my phone on my walk. I didn’t want to be distracted by notifications or the urge to scroll through Facebook when I had more important things on my mind. However, after I made my loop around the lake, I pulled out my phone and took just a few photos at the trailhead.
On the far side of the lake, it was perfectly still and quiet. The water was covered with lily pads. Turtles nibbled their leaves, and frogs hopped across them. There was even a crane nearby to keep me company. The only thing missing was someone to share the moment with.
And that’s the catch, right? Even widows have fabulous days that make their souls sing, but in and after the moment, there is no one to share that amazing experience. Sure, we have friends and family members, but we are missing that one person whose being is so intertwined with ours.
So I did my best to imagine what it would be like if fate were different. If the tumor had never grown. If he were still here. I imagined his arm around my shoulder and my hand in his as we soaked in the stillness of the day.
But, as you know, it simply wasn’t the same.
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