January 25 – A Bittersweet Day

by Susan Ideus

7:30 AM, sitting at my desk…Found flowers on my desk with a birthday card from my boss, who flew to California earlier this morning. Sigh, he doesn’t know I’d prefer to skip celebrating. Ever since our first baby girl was stillborn on my birthday, what had been a day of festivities had turned to one of silent remembrance of grief. It had been a long time, and while the pain was no longer fresh, the day had lost its joy. My family knew it was a low-key day for me.

8:30 AM, my phone rings…”Hi Mom!” It was my then 13-year old daughter Johanna. “Just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday.” “Thanks, sweet girl.” Long pause…”Uh, Mom, I know this is a bittersweet day for you, since Amy died.” (Imagine, my little girl was growing up and recognizing big emotions–big lump in throat.) “But, Mom, we’re glad it’s your birthday. If you hadn’t had a birthday, we wouldn’t have you, ya know?” We won’t ever forget Amy but can’t we celebrate you? We’re happy we have you.” Whoa…that lump in my throat just dissolved–into tears. “So, Mom, Dad and I are taking you out to dinner tonight, and then tomorrow when Becca comes home, we’re going over to Gram’s to celebrate with Uncle Jim (my twin). I want you to be glad it’s your birthday too. OK, that’s all; I have to go to catch the bus now. Later! Love ya!” Just like that, she was gone, leaving her mom with a lot to think about. My husband Harold and I had always made a big deal of the girls’ birthdays, and the girls and I went all out for Harold’s day. But I’d made it clear I wanted to be the exception to the family rituals. Was that fair? Had I, in my private grief, deprived my girls of showing their love openly? I knew Harold had always managed to keep the day quiet, but in truth, I had sensed that it bothered him too. They tried to celebrate but I just wasn’t always there. Well, it was time to change. Johanna was right. Amy would never be forgotten. She was a part of us. Had she lived, she would have been a part of all of our celebrations. And, here I was, taking that away from the two beautiful girls who had been blessing my life for all these years. No more!

Fast forward to now. I’ve had more than a few birthdays since Johanna called me that morning. She and Becca are lovely young women now. We aren’t all in the same place any longer and we don’t always get to celebrate our birthdays together. We’ve had some great birthday parties and made some wonderful memories since then, and I’ve felt so treasured on “my day.” As my birthday dawned today, I knew I would be surrounded by their love and that they would be making sure their mom was celebrating.

Susan lives in Las Cruces, NM with husband of 42 years, Harold, and she is newly and happily retired. She spends her time reading, writing, cooking and crafting. She is an editor for StoryCircleBook Reviews and a member of the SCN Publications Committee. She blogs at Being Me: Beliefs, Blessings and Blunders.

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13 responses to “January 25 – A Bittersweet Day

  1. I know a mother never forgets the child she has lost. Life becomes more even more precious and rich. Happy birthday, Susan! Celebrate the joy and light you bring to others. ; )

  2. Oh, Susan, this just had me in tears as I read. What sweet girls you have! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

  3. Ah, Susan, such a touching post. My hat is off to your wise and loving daughters for understanding, reaching out, and letting you know that your day is worthy of celebration. Happy Birthday, my friend!

    • I love that we can learn from our children, don’t you? There’s something just right about that cycle. Life is meant for celebrating and they (and now I) know that.

  4. Susan, Thanks for this beautiful post. You’ve raised great daughters, and you’ve found a way to honor the memory of your first as well, along with allowing your family to celebrate you. Congratulations, and happy birthday!

    • I am in awe daily, Susan, at these amazing young women. They are such blessings in my life. They feel life deeply and share their love freely. what more could a mother ask?

  5. Great post, Susan, and great daughters, too. Great family, as a matter of fact! Your Amy was a birthday gift and even though you didn’t have her long, you can celebrate that. Not all cherished gifts are meant to be hoarded and I can tell from your post that you all have learned to share her. Sam

    • Sam, I was so young and hurting–all I could see was that she wasn’t there–and it took me a while to accept that Amy was a gift even though she was gone. I should write about that process sometime. But, by the time Becca & Jo came along, I was able to honestly share the special time their sister and I had shared. She is a part of their lives as she is still part of mine.

  6. You really touched my heart with this post Susan. You obviously have done a wonderful job with your daughters, to raise them to have so much insight at such a young age!
    I love what Sam said about cherished gifts not meant to be hoarded, and I am so happy for you that you are now able to celebrate your special day, because you deserve to!

  7. Laurinda, I think that because the honest sharing of feelings was totally absent from my upbringing, I was determined to be honest and open with my girls. It’s not always easy, but it has given us some beautiful times together, even though some times are more difficult than others. Our feelings are gifts as well. I don’t want to hide from those I love. Some days that’s easier said than done too, but I try. As a result, the girls can share their feelings and I think they know they can share anything with me without fear of judgment. It’s been a blessing.

  8. Sid, Grief is such a lasting emotion. How beautiful that your daughter Johanna brought Amy so fully to life in your renewed celebration of your birth. What a beautiful moment. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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