You had another beautiful fall day for your birthday. Fall always makes me a little nostalgic, and today was a day of memories. I made some new ones, but mostly I lived in the past. It started as I was staring into my closet, trying to part the morning fog which clouded my brain in search of something to wear for the crazy day that was scheduled. My eyes fell upon a wine-colored formal dress. Even as I fleetingly thought about donning that dress to wear to church today in honor of my nephew’s (my sister’s son) baby dedication, I was startled by the realization that I put on this same dress this very day 12 years ago and stood beside my sister and my brother-in-law-to-be. That was a fun day even though I was young and not the best maid of honor when it came to fussing over my sister’s dress; hopefully she wasn’t offended by my lack of awareness of how I should have helped her more. She was a beautiful bride, elegant and classic. A memory I will treasure always.
But Alicia, these wonderful memories of the day I held my sister’s flowers and gained a brother couldn’t help but be clouded by the stark realization of how much life has changed since then. It was during a short walk after lunch at my sister and brother-in-law’s farm later today that I had the most vivid revelation of the day. Alicia, I’m sure you remember Daniel and I living in the apartment on that same farm for 3 years, which you and Cody also inhabited later on. As I walked down the farm lane toward my son, I saw those years play out before my eyes… years when life was much simpler with less responsibility and care – before kids, years when I didn’t know what LAM was, years when I spent time with you and Cody in that apartment – both when it was ours and when it was yours. Life was simple & sweet compared to the mess I feel today.
Alicia, the day kept marching on and by the fourth stop today, the craziness of the day was getting to me and my emotions were going a bit haywire as we planted a tree in your honor at the sight where we spread your ashes almost 6 months ago. Remembering back just 6 months… has anything changed since that day in early May when we stood at that same spot? Sometimes I wonder if I’ve made any progress in working out the new normal that I so desperately don’t want to engage, still clinging to every memory of you. The hole in my heart certainly hasn’t changed, except maybe to feel a little more final.
Alicia – happy 24th birthday. You should have been here today to make another wonderful memory. I spent a bunch of time remembering birthdays of years past. I remember celebrating your birthday when you were younger gathered around the farm table. I remember celebrating at your parents’ house in town one year – eating pizza and being crazy. One of the most memorable times for me was the year we were rain camping on your birthday. Pouring down buckets of rain for hours prior to departure, and we still decided to go camping. Singing “Happy Birthday” to you in your mansion of a tent while we ate cream cheese brownies.
But the birthday that taught me the most was last year’s – your golden birthday. You turned 23 on the 23rd of October. I had never heard of a “golden birthday” before you introduced the concept to me. Celebrating that certainly wasn’t part of my upbringing. And I must admit that when you invited us to your place to celebrate your golden birthday I thought it was a little silly to make such a big deal about it, but I was definitely game for spending an evening with family around food anyways. (Last year, we even eliminated the idea of the yearly applesauce canning day happening on your birthday because we all know how much you “enjoy” that day!) I honestly don’t remember much – if anything about that evening. In fact part of me feels like I’m making this evening up because you had so many parties at your house. I really don’t remember any one specifically – except some superbowl parties. (I have a really bad memory with details – movies, books, experiences, people’s lives. I need pictures as proof.) But it wasn’t the actual evening that speaks to me the most since you’ve been gone. It was your excitement about your birthday, something so ordinary – you had already had 22 of them, and yet you wanted to celebrate. I have thought about this so much since your death – how you wanted to celebrate life in general, maybe to a fault at times (Christmas music!!), but much more than I tend to do. But the difference is now I want to.
I want to learn to celebrate too. In fact, sometimes I’ve needed to give myself permission to celebrate, especially since your death. Today I celebrated my nephew’s miraculous! birth, another little life that I can be an aunt to. I want to be remembered as someone who was excited about life, not only about the special moments of life but also excited about the mundane moments of life which far outweigh the special ones in number. And I’m hoping that in celebrating those mundane moments, they become special too. I’m not 100% sure this happens, but I do want to find out, thanks to you, Alicia. I just wish you were here to find out with me.
I miss you so much, your sweet smile and contagious laugher. There are no words that can express it.