And so begins a series of “firsts” in the grieving process. Today is Ron’s birthday – the first since his death on March 11th (my birthday). I am teary. Not surprising. At first I was tempted to give in, to begin this day filled with reflection on my loss.
However, Facebook popped up a “year-iago-today picture” for me this morning. The image caught me by surprise, fluttered briefly on my screen, and then disappeared into my news feed before I could decide whether I wanted to repost it. The photo was from Ron’s birthday party at Summertrace rehab center on Sunday, July 13, 2014. We were all wearing mustaches. Ron was trying to play “Drop-the-Ring-on-the-Birthday cake.”
Of course the picture brought tears to my eyes, but it also reminded me of the burden Ron bore every day – his paralysis and pain, his cough (he tried to eat rice pudding Dean made for him, but couldn’t), his tired smile (he wanted to enjoy the children, but needed to go back to his room to rest). So much weariness and struggle – for both of us. How could I wish him back for another birthday like that?
And so I choose to celebrate his re-birthday today. I rejoice that he no longer has to compromise with physical life, a dynamic spirit trapped in an uncooperative body. He did his best. He stayed as long as he could. The tears are for me, not for him. Yet I should not weep. This is a day for the first celebration of his legacy – to be glad that in this life he did more than exist, he lived by faith, he made a difference, and he loved me. How fortunate we both were. How fortunate we both still are.
So I will dry my tears today – again and again, if necessary. I will embrace the day and its gifts I will remember that the longings I feel are reminders of the eternal nature of love.
The only defense against grief is life. To live in sorrow is a selfish indulgence of my own needs that helps no one and has no power to transform. That attitude is the antithesis of Ron’s legacy, a disservice to his memory. So today remember with me what Ron stood for in his life: letting the needs of others set our daily agenda, understanding that our gifts are meant to be shared, holding ourselves to a standard of excellence, but knowing God’s grace holds us secure in our striving.
May every “first” celebration remind me of Ron’s approach to living. This year will give me lots of opportunities to practice. In fact, this coming July 18th would have been our 34th wedding anniversary. So now I can just reread this post to regain my focus. I’m sure I will need to. The process of grief is not linear, but recursive. That’s why the “firsts” really never become seconds or thirds. Time does not dull grief; we must let time change our use of grief.