Saturday, January 29, 2011

of births and birthday parties

we celebrated eliza's birthday and her life today. over the years of eliza's life and through the three birthdays since her death, we have developed some traditions. despite the fact that eliza never tasted any real food, much less cake, luke has never been able to comprehend a birthday without cake, so today we had our fifth cake (okay, cupcakes this time) celebrating eliza's life. for sam, a birthday warrants a party and worship, and a party warrants a crowd. today was no different. for me, i have found it meaningful to give gifts to others when giving birthday gifts to eliza is impossible, so we have historically visited the intensive care nursery at duke hospital, where eliza spent the first ten weeks of her life, with gifts for the patients' families and nurses on her birthday. today, my third-trimester exhaustion and a string of mid-winter illnesses--stomach bug, colds--prevented our continuing that tradition. i've also always taken time around eliza's birthday to send letters to people with whom i don't have regular contact but who were significant in eliza's life--nurses, doctors, etc. not sure if i'll manage to squeak those out before the day is over; i've got two hours to go...

one thing did feel different today, though. sam and i both felt it: somehow, it was easier today to separate the joy of eliza's birth from the grief of her death than it has been before. last night, as we ate dinner with friends, we were able to laugh at the memory of my being in labor but being determined to finish my mexican dinner before going home to pack my bag and head for the hospital the night before she was born--and that untainted by what the result of that labor would be. i was able to reminisce about the fact that eliza was born just hours after her baby shower, fifteen days early--and to laugh at the possibility that her little sister could do the same, as her baby shower is scheduled for just three weeks before her due date, and this without marring the anticipation of anastasia's birth.

historically, i have fought such evidence of "getting over it." i'll confess to feeling some of the same this year. part of me wants to be sadder than i am; i somehow want to dwell on the grief and have it overshadow the joy. i'm sure i've written about it before, about how clinging to the pain of loss feels like some last way of clinging to the person you've lost; i know i'm not alone in having felt that way. but as today ends, i am choosing instead to cling to the joy. i am choosing to delight in so much of what was delightful about eliza's life: in the awe of two birthday parties here with us when she was never expected to experience one, in the joy of how many people she brought closer to us and to each other, in the sweet lessons our family learned from loving her.

happy birthday, indeed. and many more.

1 comment:

Naomi Skena said...

so precious, daniele. grateful for your joy!