Today is my Mother's 75th birthday. I was happy to be up in New Hampshire to be with my Mom and my sisters so we could celebrate two happy occasions - my Mom's special day and a bridal shower for my nephew's fianceé. It was great for us to be together and stay busy...
...because we all remembered that on this day last year, we experienced a devastating blow as a family. At two in the morning, my father suffered a massive stroke while sleeping in bed with my Mom. Although he didn't technically pass away until three days later, we all know he left us that night. He never regained consciousness.
I like to believe that my Dad orchestrated his passing. I think his soul immediately left his body. I believe he wrapped his arms around each and every one of us individually over the next three days as we tried to wrap our minds and our hearts around his impending death. From my oldest brother to the youngest grandchild. I believe he waited until all of us had had our time with him to let his body stop working. He was always such a gentleman and his passing was so generous and so compassionate and so loving.
I'll never forget this day. I'll never forget the call from my sister, Bean, telling me that he had a stroke. "Kate, you need to come to the hospital. Dad had another stroke. They don't think he is going to survive this." I didn't believe it - even though I believed it - I couldn't believe it - not my Dad. Not now. Your parents are supposed to live forever - how am I going to survive without my Dad?
Just hours before midnight - when the clock would whisper happy birthday to his wife - he sat at the computer and composed an email. He wrote in the subject line, "TO ANN WITH LOVE" in all caps. He couldn't have known how important that extra emphasis would be. Or did he? He wrote her a birthday email too personal to ever share - and too beautiful to ever forget. At the end of the email was a poem - my Dad loved writing poems for my Mom. It was almost like he knew that something was up. He had to get his birthday wishes in before he laid down that night.
Technically, I was never able to say goodbye to my Dad while he was conscious. And while to some, that may seem tragic - to me it didn't matter. The beauty of my relationship with my Dad (and I'm sure my siblings and my Mom would feel this way, too) is that we never left anything unsaid. We loved. We cried. We laughed. We wrote. We encouraged. We fought. We made up. We talked and talked. We never ended a conversation without saying "I love you." That is the greatest gift a daughter could ever receive from her Dad...and give to her Dad. I was - and will always remain - so lucky.
I lost my Dad one year ago today - but I never really did. He's around me every day and I know he's still reading my blog. And if I know him, he's printing it out in Heaven's office and passing it around with pride.
I'm sorry that my Mom has this heavy burden on her birthday. But the truth is - I try to celebrate my Mom every single day. It's rare that a day goes by without us talking. As you all know by now, I love my Mom so much. She really is my closest friend. And she is more than I could wish for in a Granny. When I asked Brian what he loved about his Granny, he said: "I give Granny a big kiss and a hug and she gets very very happy and laughs a lot." Oh, and "Granny *prized* me with a cookie and gave me a Jeep from her basement." Granny should know that the plastic garage sale jeep was like a rare treasure to him and he slept with it for a solid week. Anything Granny touches is magic to my children. Just like it was when I was a little girl. And not much has changed. My Mom still has a way of making everything alright for everyone else. I just wish I could make it alright for her right now.
Wishing my Mother a peaceful day of remembering her husband with love.
And remembering how much he - and her five children - and her five children in law - and her 20 grandchildren love her, too.
Happy Birthday, Mom!