36

February 28, 2024

Earlier this week I celebrated my 36th birthday. It was a gorgeous 77 degrees – the warmest birthday I remember – and I spent the day with my husband and kids. We went to Branson, MO, took a long walk around Table Rock Lake, and got some fancy ice cream, and burgers for dinner. It was a beautiful day. I’m grateful for another year of life. I am blessed to be surrounded by the love of my family and friends. This past year, like most years, has been very full. I have always loved birthdays and celebrating people. In my opinion, a birthday is a time to reflect on a person’s life and recognize who they are. Growing up, I have always loved my birthday. Taking time to think about and remember the things I’ve overcome that year and look forward to the future.

This past year has been very different though. Although there was lots of beauty, travel, love, and laughter, there was also heartbreak.  I am still deeply grieving the loss of my mother. In the last 4 months, there were lots of times I braced myself for having a tough time emotionally. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my mom’s birthday. My dad turned 90 recently and I was sure to do my best to celebrate with him without my mother there.

And surrounding my birthday, I am still at a loss. It was a wonderful day but the before and after were incredibly hard. Looking over my life and who I am as a person is hard to do without thinking about my mom. Some of my favorite things about myself are because of her. My sense of humor and fun. My level of empathy. Reaching out to people that I am thinking about, looking at life through a lens of celebration and appreciation. All those traits are from her whether by example or things I naturally inherited.

One of the hardest things about grief and loss for me is that there isn’t an end date or point in time when the pain is over. I did not anticipate that grief would affect my birthday. In hindsight, that may seem obvious since my mom is why I have a birthday in the first place, but I felt unprepared. I did my best to enjoy the day – and I did – but I can’t ignore the feelings of loss I’ve experienced the last 4 months and will probably still feel in the future.

Moving forward, I am continuing to change into a new person. The passing of my mother has made me reevaluate a lot of things. What are my goals? What do I value? What relationships matter to me and why? What do I realistically have time to do? Where should I put my energy? As I continue to ruminate over different things, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future. Yet I do my best to continue to trust that God is in control and that He continues working out these things for good. (Much easier said than done.)

I’m grateful for another year in my life and for putting one foot in front of the other no matter what lies ahead.