an honest look at celebrating birthdays after loss
I don’t know how to ask this, without sounding quite desperate.
But, the truth is, I am feeling desperate.
Desperate to celebrate my daughter and have you alongside me.
Her birthday is on March 7th. She would have been 4 years old.
Every fibre of my being is screaming out: please acknowledge it. Somehow.
As a parent, I often wonder: will other forget about her? Will the stories and photos feel awkward after a certain point? Will the memories fade beyond recognition? Is my grief tiresome to others?
Her approaching birthday reminds me of these things. I am still fumbling my way through this grief journey, and wondering how this whole birthday-without-a-birthday-girl-present thing is supposed to feel and work.
So I ask:
Would you tell me how she changed you? What she taught you? How you loved her? Tell me you remember her and think about her. Tell me you love her still and haven’t forgotten about her beautiful life.
Spend a moment in solitude on her birthday and still your heart.
Whisper her name out loud and notice the weight of the letters in your mouth. Florence.
Plant marigolds in the spring or write her name in the sand, with chalk, with flowers, and tag the photos #FlorenceMarigoldinBloom.
Continue to tell your children about her. Weave her name into your prayers of gratitude. And then tell me all about it.
Send me a note about Florence so we can read it on her birthday, and then release it into the earth.
She will not attend preschool, grade school, or graduation. She will not marry and have children. My heart has accepted these things.
But, I need every ounce of your love and energy on her birthday, because I need her and she isn’t here. I have a deep, overwhelming need to honour her, to acknowledge the goodness of her life and fight on her behalf against the disease that took her from us. But I really don’t want to do it alone.
On her birthday, gaze at the sun, the stars, the moon, and tell me you are thinking of her. Feel the grass beneath your feet, see the sky above you, and feel the fire burn within you.
Remember her beautiful smile. Her love for Elmo and Tinkerbell. Her passionate disapproval of vacuums and sheep. Her milky baby sighs and babbles. That sweet season when she could say mama and dada. The way she would look at you, right into your very soul. Remember her precious, holy life.
Tell me you will run, paint, donate, sing, fundraise on her behalf.
Tell me you have been deeply moved and changed by her life. Tell me she has made your numbness disappear.
Even if it’s just on her birthday. Even if you do one small thing in honour of her… would you tell me all about it?
When you talk about her, my heart blooms with love and affection and gratitude.
I take every nugget, every memory, and carry it in my heart. That nugget burrows in and blossoms.
It bears fruit.
Would you plant with me this year? Would you sow seeds with your words and actions and watch how they grow?
Then, let’s stand together and watch how the seedlings sprout into trees that cover us with their wings. Boughs full, fruit ripe, tendrils reaching on and upwards towards the warmth of heaven.
from Florence’s mama.
In honour of Florence’s birthday, consider making a donation to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice on Flo’s fundraising page or to Families of SMA Canada or The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation.
Florence and Charlie’s 10K to end SMA will be held August 7th at Second Beach in Vancouver BC. All are welcome to run, walk, roll 10K or less. Details can be found here.