I have to admit, I almost cancelled my birthday this year. After the sudden loss of my cousin Mindy yesterday afternoon, the likelihood of celebrating today seemed remote. I knew Mindy would not agree with that thought. She would have encouraged me to find the joy in the day. Through a variety of people and throughout the day, joy did arrive.
My day started early with picking up my six year old granddaughter to take her to school. After she climbed into the car, I noticed her staring at the stocking cap on my head. Aubrey rarely sees me in a cap, even when it is very cold. “What?” I asked. “It’s my birthday. This is my birthday hat.” I told her. With a look of delight on her beautiful little face, she piped up, “How will we celebrate?” I chuckled over her enthusiasm. “Really….what will we do to celebrate?” she insisted. How I love this little girl. I promised her we would celebrate after I picked her up from school in the afternoon. And like that, the day shifted. Yes, I was sad. However, I decided I wouldn’t wrap the sadness around me like a cloak, shutting out the world.
The day offered an endless stream of surprises. Arriving in Neosho to accompany Harry to the funeral home, he presented me with a gift from Mindy as soon as I walked through the door. Wednesday, after I took Mindy home from doctors’ appointments in Joplin, and saw her settled in for a nap, she sent Harry searching for a surprise she had ordered for me. The package wasn’t where she thought it was. She was so tired and needed to sleep. I told her not to worry about it and I would get it later. Harry found the gift…two Keep Calm mugs with English tea. I was so touched. How like Mindy. And what an acknowledgement of our shared love of tea time. I cherish this last gift from her.
And I have to say, I was so proud of Harry this morning. I went with him to the funeral home to be supportive of him while he made decisions and choices. Everything he did was honoring of his mother and full of love. This young man, who has suddenly found himself responsible for so many things, is stepping up into a new level of adulthood with grace. Mindy raised an amazing son. My heart sang as I drove back to Joplin.
My dear friend Garen invited me out for a birthday lunch at Ichiban. I tried the New York, New York sushi for the first time. It was delicious with crunchy bits of chopped apple sprinkled on top. Most of all, I appreciated and enjoyed the conversation and the sharing of ideas that flowed between us. Garen has been a wonderful friend and a fellow traveler on the journey and I am so grateful for him.
As promised, when I picked up Aubrey from school, we had our own little celebration. Greg joined us and we had a treat at Chick-Fil-A. My precious granddaughter presented me with a gift that she made in school today. Crying out “Happy Birthday” she handed me a beautiful picture she made of herself with her head tipped back and a perfect snowflake landing on her tongue. What a wonderful representation of joy. The artwork has a place of honor on my refrigerator. Aubrey and I paid my mom a visit and she too made my birthday special with a lovely card and a birthday check.
Greg provided the final celebration for today. He discovered that the Irish band, Keltic Knot, was playing this evening at The Woodshed in Carthage. After dropping Aubrey off with her dad and stepmom, we located the venue within Cherry’s Art Emporium on the square. What a unique and interesting place. Dinner was available too and we had the Shepherd’s Pie. It was wonderfully filling. What a great night of music. The band was talented and fun to listen to. The 18 year old lead singer had a rich, lilting voice. Her dad played bass guitar and sang. Tim played the mandolin and a variety of other instruments and the young drummer was phenomenal. Playing traditional and contemporary Irish and Scottish music, Keltic Knot entertained the crowd with haunting melodies and lively drinking songs. Of course, I thought of Mindy. This is our kind of music! Then the bass player brought out a set of Highland bagpipes. My heart swelled and tears stung my eyes as he played several songs, including Amazing Grace. I know without a doubt that I have Scottish blood when the sound of bagpipes makes me teary eyed.
In between those beautiful blessings today, I received hundreds of messages via texts, phone calls, emails and Facebook posts from around the world. Friends and family wished me a happy birthday and also condolences and the mix was exactly what I needed today. I know it is not easy to offer into the grief of another. And how much more complicated it becomes when a day that should be celebrated falls immediately after a day of shocking loss. Yet the messages from these dear souls, of joy mixed with sorrow, of empathy and encouragement, were genuine and uplifting. I was blessed indeed by the outpouring of love today. Thank you from my overflowing heart.