Today was my gram’s birthday, had she been alive she would have turned 97 today. When she turned 85 I threw her a big surprise birthday party. A lot of the people who were important to her came to celebrate the day with her. The ones that could not make it, and some of the ones that could wrote down their favorite memory of her and I put them together for her in a book. The look on her face and the joy that book brought her was worth all the work that went into it.
As we drove to the hospital the week before her death I joked with her about planning her 90th birthday party. She laughed and told me she did not want a party; I told her it was something worth celebrating and I would throw her one any way. A few days later she died. She won, kind of. We planned her burial for what would have been her 90th birthday and we celebrated anyway.
Every year since her death we celebrate her on her special day. June 5th will always be special to me and I hope to my kids. Some years we have cake, some years we buy her balloons or flowers, and some years we just go for ice cream in her honor. This year was a little different. This year we celebrated my mom’s life on my gram’s birthday. We said our goodbyes to my gram’s only daughter on her birthday this year.
Since my mom died I have felt very connected to my female ancestors. There have been things that I have noticed that make me believe that we are all very similar even generations apart. Many of the women in my family had a very special relationship with their grandmother, while the bond with their mother suffered. We all had the maternal support we needed; it just came from the generation before. I felt that celebrating my mom’s life on the birthday of the woman who gave her life was completing their circle.
The remaining few in my family are here, working on our own circles; but today we could reunite them, as well as the other mothers and grandmothers from our family circle that have already passed on. We are all connected, in an interwoven weave that makes us whole. Each piece, no matter how insignificant it may seem is critical for the survival of another. My mom may not have been able to give me all that I needed, but she made sure my gram could. The mothers and grandmothers in my family are strong women. We are a force to be reckoned with. We have our weaknesses, but oh do we have our strengths. We are family. We are survivors. Life was a struggle for all of us, but we managed. We managed and we succeeded.
My mom’s celebration of life took place this morning at Lake Willoughby. It was a place her mom took her as a child, and where she took us as kids. It was a place of joy. A place of peace. A place of wonder. A small circle of her friends and family gathered by the water we swam and splashed in. It was a place where I felt loved, and a place she had as well. Water had been an important part of her life, and she made it an important part of ours. Her mother passed on her love of water to her, and I to my children.
The flow of the water, the splash of the waves, and the strength in the current make water mystifying. Water is ever changing, never to have the same ripple twice. It is calm and serene while having massive power. A shallow river has enough force in its current to move large trees downstream. Looking at the calm water you would never know the power below. But don’t test it. Don’t push it. Water will win as it peacefully passes by. The women in my family are like water. We quietly watch the world around us and push back when we need to. You need water to survive as you need love. You will wilt away into nothingness without water, as you will without love.
Today’s forecast called for 90% chance of rain, heavy at times. While we gathered around the lake it merely sprinkled, off and on. There were lulls of no rain at all. The sun even peeked out of the clouds for a little while. We sprinkled some of her ashes into the water as the others sang “You Are My Sunshine.” We were her sunshine, as she was ours. Today she gave us the gift of sunshine, if only for a few moments. As we drove away the heavy rain came. I know she had something to do with that. She did not want us to be sad, she wants us to live. She wants us to be thankful for the time we had with her and to live the rest of our lives as we wait for our final descent. She was a prisoner in her life for as long as I knew her, and many years before that. Where she is now she is free. She has joy and she has love. I know she is not gone from our lives; she is just on a different path until we meet up again.
Happy Birthday Gram.
Happy Travels Mom.
Until we meet again. Much love.