- By Eileen Vandergrift
- One Comment
From the time my children left the house and moved out into the world, their Birthday’s have created a puzzling series of feelings in me.
Alongside the pleasure of conversations with them, surprises that I feel confident will tickle them and gift giving that always seems ‘just right’
(at least to me)…there is the appreciation I have developed for how much they belong to the world beyond me. Of course, most of us would assert that, as parents, we have always known that our task was to bring our children into the world and, with gratitude, surrender to the fact that there is an inevitably brief period of time through which we can have such intimate knowing of them. Still, reason often fails me there! I find, year after year, a quiet bubbling of sadness and a sense that they SHOULD be with me on this particular day… I’m somehow entitled to be with them to celebrate the long road I have walked with no one but them. It’s a feeling that also induces a bit of shame…it is unreasonable and selfish, not to mention impractical and childish. I have reflected a lot on the ways in which the chord that connected us is never fully severed and how fortunate I am to have them as much and as deeply as I do. Today, I found myself wondering if maybe parents who have lost their children live with some intense version of that feeling every day as they know that the relationship they had will never be either severed or satisfied in just the way they long for? I recognize that there is no end to the variety of ways we all tend to our losses, hold them, soothe them, resist them but I do think that recognizing them explicitly, developing traditions and public recognitions that incline us to cultivate our relationship to them for always, is possible and helpful. I imagine that we might live more fully from that position.
So, with those thoughts in the forefront of my mind yesterday, I watched the snow deliver some 14 inches to my muted, snow globe-like, little back yard. My son celebrating his Birthday 1500 miles and one day away, was on my mind. As the snow accumulated on the glass table, I watched it begin to look like a monumental Birthday cake! It pleased me that somehow my fantasy of the ‘snow cake’ matched my thoughts of him as he grew through all those years, bit by bit, and definitely beyond any effort I might want to make to keep him just so! By evening, I decided to take my “vision” seriously and I planted 27 candles into the snow and lit them…it was as sweet and quiet a celebration as any church vigil I have ever attended AND having taken a picture, it gave me a way to share with him (and with you) one simple, organic moment when I was able to let my heart speak to my sense of loss AND celebration. I hope that you will allow yourselves to play with your own wish to remember and express your love as it bubbles up…AND, of course, I hope that you know we’d welcome hearing about it!