Birthdays are a big deal in our family and they always have been. Sara’s birthday is this Saturday and I’m feeling so much dread and anxious anticipation for it. It was pretty much her favorite day of the whole year and it’s beyond hard to think about not celebrating her. Like I can’t comprehend her not being here for her party. My heart can’t comprehend not going out to family dinner and spending time picking out the perfect birthday present for her.
Grief is such a weird thing. Most of my grief I feel physically before I even know mentally that I’m struggling. For the past couple weeks I’ve felt panic a lot of the time but didn’t really understand why or what was making me feel so intense. And the other morning as I was driving to work, it clicked. The birthday is in 5 days. The birthday I want to kind of just pretend is any old Saturday. The birthday that seems more sad than the memorial service or any of my wedding stuff or my birthday combined.
I can’t really explain why it seems more sad but it does. Maybe because for my own birthday or any of my wedding stuff I can push Sara to the back of my mind and let myself focus on me. But Sara’s birthday is a day only about Sara. And how do I do her birthday party justice when she’s not here?
I’m a worrier and her birthday is bringing me so much worry. Worry about how everyone in our family but especially my niece and nephew will be feeling Saturday. Worry that the party won’t play out the way Sara would want it. Worry that we’ve left someone out. Worry that I’ll be a mess of tears all weekend while working. Worry that I’ll say or do the wrong thing. Worry that I’m not strong enough to get through this.
Everyone in my family will be out of town this weekend on their own separate adventures and I’m desperately wishing that out of town could have been an option for me. I could use the distraction but that’s not in the cards this weekend. So I have to face Sara’s birthday head on. I have to find some way to honor her that feels right and good and safe for me.
I was listening to a book on my way to work this morning. The author lost her husband, her dad and had a miscarriage all within like 6 weeks of each other. So her book is about a lot of love but also a lot of loss. I only made it through the first couple chapters but she made me feel a little less crazy. Although she’s grieving different people and relationships than I am her grief feels so much like my own. She’s so honest and blunt about it too. She basically is saying all the things aloud that I say in my head. The last part I heard while I was pulling into work was about another funeral she attended just a couple months after losing her husband, father and unborn baby. At that funeral for an old classmate, this man’s cousin asked to hear stories. Stories that the cousin didn’t know. Stories that would remind him more of his family member’s life than death. Stories so he could have parts of this person he didn’t even know existed. It was a beautiful moment for the author and turned into a beautiful moment for me.
It reminded me that the best way to honor Sara for myself, for my family and for her friends is to tell stories. To try for a couple days to stop overanalyzing the way she died and to remember and talk about and share the way that she lived.
A year ago today Sara and I went on one of our Sister Dates. I love all time spent with our whole big family but I really loved our Sister Dates the best. We got each other’s undivided attention for a couple hours and that was special and important (although I didn’t think as much about how important until now). We met at a one of my favorite Happy Hour places, Modesto (that’s not longer in business). We of course showed up in matching sunglasses and immediately laughed about how in sync we always are. We shared a pitcher of Sangria and some appetizers. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about but I don’t think that really matters. What matters is that it felt like one of the best nights with my sister ever. We laughed a lot and probably shed a few tears. We shared life together like we always did. It’s what we were always good at, being there for each other. I love the picture we took that night. I have it hanging up in my house. I love it cause our matching sunglasses but I also love it cause we look happy and I can still close my eyes and feel my sister’s hand in mine as we laughed trying to take the perfect selfie. I can feel her tight hug and kiss on my cheek as we left the restaurant. Sara loved me and loved our sister dates. When things seem hard and confusing I can always fall back on that fact, my sister loved me and she knew I loved her.
Do me a favor in the next couple days my friends, honor those you have loved that are no longer with us by telling someone a story about them. Reach out to a family member or friend and tell them a story they may not know. Give them a little piece of love and life of their loved one to them. It may seem like nothing but I promise you for those of us who receive those stories it’s everything.