Happy Birthday?? (#2)

Yesterday was my birthday. Woke up cranky, shook-up in a way I hadn’t expected. What I’d noticed on Philip’s birthday in January and the anniversary (can we please find a different word??) of his death in February was that it wasn’t what I thought it’d be. I knew what these days were, more than I experienced them. It was during the days afterward when grief yet again unmoored me from the world.

Didn’t think much about my birthday, didn’t consider any sort of “celebration.” The quiet keeps me steady, focused on the daily work of living with Philip’s loss. And no sense rushing it; I’m going to be doing it for the rest of my life. Natalie spent the day with me, which was all that I wanted. I’ve recently finished hospice training, and she and I volunteered for a hospice fundraiser in the morning. Then lunch at Toast, then to a deaf event at Union College that Natalie had to attend for her ASL class. Home to watch “Ondine” (thank you, Cindy), dinner at Redeye Café. Then home for the night, while Natalie went to spend some time with a friend.

I think what describes it best is a short letter I wrote to X, whose daughter recently died. She’d said she cannot make sense of this, to which I replied:

“I think you have to start by making meaning in your life before any of it makes sense. And I will tell you something – one year and two months later I have made at least some sense of this. It’s not pretty. But Philip is still dead. I can philosophize and spiritualize and analyze all I want. I’m tired of it now, today. Today is my birthday and I don’t want to be bothered. This was a hard day, more than I expected. I wanted to stamp my feet and scream, “Enough of this; I’m tired, don’t you see? I’ve been working really, really hard and now I think it’s time you please please send him home.”

I miss him. It’s fresh again. But this is what my son did: tonight, I was on my laptop, doing what I was doing, and his headshot popped up. I almost threw the computer. There he was, his face innocent, like an angel. I did not touch anything; the picture hadn’t been open. It just popped up. That was his happy birthday to me.”

They do reach out to us, those we love. Which isn’t even unusual, mysterious as it may be. It’s a matter of paying attention, it’s a matter of what you want. And I’ll take Philip any way I can have him – any way.

Okay. Back to the narrative.

© 2013 Denise Smyth



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. behindthemaskofabuse
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 12:48:16

    I wish I had words, my thoughts are with you.


  2. tersiaburger
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 15:02:14

    Lots of hugs.


  3. Denise
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 17:59:21

    You do have words, and they’re much appreciated; as are hugs. Thank you both.


  4. fluckman
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 22:06:19

    Thank you Denise, 8 weeks ago tonight I was awake, torn, my son, Sulien 12 was for the first time beyond my reach, 8 hours dead, in a morgue awaiting autopsy, I was distraught, not just because he was dead, but as much because I couldn’t look after his body. They wouldnt even let me put a teddy by him. Why? Oh, why couldnt they see how important that was for me. Detached from the physical care of his body, I’d so enjoyed and taken for granted, my physical withdrawals were appalling.Tonight in your writings I found finally what I have been searching for, another persons raw reflections on so many things I too have found that matter. His body matteres. I followed it to Cardiff where he was cut open, to tell me what I already knew. I met him on his return, at a lovely undertaker in an old now converted Welsh chapel, above the beach we’d long played on. There, I finally got to take over the care of his beautiful body again, checking it all over, washing him and putting his PJs on. We then welcomed him home, to be with me and mine, which was the most peaceful 18 hours I have had since he died. I could care for him again, we could eat with him again, we could laugh and cry with him again, we could watch each other with him again. I particularly remember his 16 month old sister Isla, who he doted on, trying to feed him noodles. And when everyone had gone to bed, I nestled up close to him, and defying my expectations slept. The following morning, I know now what it really means, as I think you do to close that lid down for that last time. I am glad I photographed him in his beautifully painted coffin, I appear as a benign green man at his feet. I still, though sad, feel peaceful looking at that last photo of my son. Strange that his last 18 hours here, in our home, is such a precious memory for me alongside the many of when he was alive. So I know what you mean when you talk about your sons body and what some people might say. Grieving my ongoing loss of attachment and daily care of him physically has found me spending time caring for his grave, thats where his body is. I cry, talk, whimper at times still as I am rearranging the plants and soil above him. Good grief, Oh I think so…. I’ve been looking for something more akin to what I have been experiencing and think I found it in your shared experience, thank you, Frederick, Father of Sulien Luckman, who I love x


    • Denise
      Apr 27, 2013 @ 22:26:02

      I am touched and honored by your sharing your experience, so unlike anything I’ve ever heard. So sorry, so very sorry, for your loss; but you found a way to make a memory that will give at least a bit of peace from time to time. I thank God for the good memories I have of Philip.


  5. Becki Duckworth
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 18:47:29

    He’s there I am certain, he is ever present, I agree there needs to be a different word anniversary is not appropriate . Have you discovered a replacement word?


  6. Denise
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 19:01:08

    No. I saw someone write, “saddiversary” but that doesn’t work for me.


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