Today is my mom’s birthday. She would be turning 56. I know that some people die much younger than she did and in the most unjust of ways, but when it’s your mother, it’s hard to console yourself with that information. Birthdays have a funny way of making you reflect on where you are in your life and what is to come, all the possibilities that are out there. So what do you do when a person is no longer here to celebrate their birthday? You find yourself thinking about what could have been.
It’s a dangerous road to go down and I try not to go there often. It’s a path that can leave you bitter and heartbroken. But like all humans, part of me will always wonder “what if.” What kind of dessert would we make her, what present would I get her, what would this next year of life have in store for her? Which then leads to the painful reminder that I never really got the chance to buy her a proper birthday present. You know, when it’s actually something other than a handmade craft, breakfast in bed, or some cheap trinket that you buy with your allowance…which would technically have been her money. I want to be able to surprise her with something thoughful just as my friends do for their parents. Maybe some good quality yarn, a gardening tool, or a good book. Bake her a chocolate cake. I try not to fall into a “it’s not fair” kind of mentality because even if it isn’t, it is the way it is. But aren’t you hoping to celebrate your 56th birthday? Or your 80th? Why shouldn’t I have assumed that I’d be celebrating hers one day as well?
As I travel around Europe, I regularly send postcards home to my family and close friends. I know that if she were still just an ocean away, she would be receiving one from me today. While writing home yesterday, I became lost in thought, my pen poised against the postcard I was working on. Thinking of her, missing her, dreaming of what it would be like to see her again. Suddenly, I had the urge to write her postcard, just as I would have done had things worked out differently. I stared at the blank space in front of me, gripping my pen. “Dear Mom,” I started, carefully shaping each letter. I paused and stared at this standard introduction for a long time and tried to remember what it felt like to know she would read those words. I wanted to believe that she would read this postcard. If only we could unknow something for just a moment, just long enough to escape the confines of whatever reality we’re stuck in and go back in time.
I wish I could say that it worked. Unfortunately, I have yet to locate Heaven’s address. But even if it is just one of those sentimental things that I do to ease the pain of her absence, there is comfort in believing that somehow, some way, she will read my note.
Happy birthday, Mom. I’ll always be sorry that this has to be your birthday present.