I got through the holidays, and now Camila’s birthday is coming up. As people in the circle say, I’m experiencing the “first year” markers. And they hurt.
At Christmas, my extended family made alternative plans for the first time in years. We rented a big house in the hills, brought more food than we could eat and more games than we could play, and tucked in for a few days of family time. I brought a large framed picture of my girl that began at my bedside but migrated into the main room. My niece placed it on the hearth where we could all see it. It was a comfort to all of us and seemed to make it easier for the younger kids to talk about their cousin. Though there were times of weeping over the holiday, both shared and private, seeing Camila’s picture placed so predominately made me feel good. I felt my family’s support, and I was reminded that my loss was shared.
I kept this in mind as I thought about Camila’s up-coming birthday. My daughter was incredibly successful socially. She could talk to anyone, included everyone, and was the instigator of many memorable gatherings among her wide circle of friends. And so my mind turned to them, her friends, the people she had loved, when I thought about this milestone. They too shared her loss. I asked myself, Could I mark this occasion in a way that would be helpful to all of us?
I am choosing to raise a glass to toast my girl on her birthday. I chose one of her favorite local pubs, asked one of her bffs to help spread the word, texted some of her friends – and have promised to buy a round of drinks. The thing is, I would rather feel love than sorrow on her birthday. Surrounding myself with those she loved – who loved her back – will be a way to remember that hers was a happy, loved life. And that will be her gift to me this birthday.