The Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)
Happy Birthday — NOT. This year’s birthday is still a few days away but I can’t help channel the Mad Hatter, with his lopsided birthday cake, and his kooky wishes for an unbirthday. I’m no Grinch. I love celebrating everyone’s special days even more than my own, but last year, my trusty Libra scales completely tipped over. And they dumped all the ‘Wonderland’ cheer out of me. Last year, the day that marked by birth began a runaway train I didn’t even know I was on — and I was powerless to stop it. That beautiful October jewel of a day tripped off what would be the last week — of my husband’s life.
That day. . . I was unaware of what was to come as I wrote a gratitude piece I posted on Facebook surveying my life in light of another birthday. As I wrote it, I laughed and cried as my life’s blessings poured into my words. And as the words took shape, it was evident that both hard times and joyful times make a life; mold a life and that day, when I examined my life, I was grateful for all of it.
That day. . . as I contentedly poured my soul into that little birthday reflection, I had no way of knowing all my thoughts, my gratitude would be tested in life-changing ways. I could not have known that day I would find my husband dead — just 5 days later. But looking back, I’m certain I wouldn’t change a word of what I wrote. I just wish those clueless, happy moments would have lasted longer. Don’t we all.
That day. . . I opened my husband’s gifts nearly as soon as I opened my eyes because he was always like a little kid, excitedly impatient for someone own them. While my man could never quite remember Mondays were garbage days, he always remembered what I liked or needed. Finding an Apple gift card among my gifts that day, it wasn’t long before I was on my way to pick up the new replacement, upgraded iPad I was jonesing for. Looking back, I could have waited. I could have savored more moments that day; and the next. But he had things to do and people to see and so did I. That’s the thing about life. It doesn’t come with a crystal ball and there’s simply no way to foretell how our lives may change in a nanosecond.
That day. . . my handsome dude looked forward to the birthday dinner he planned every year at our favorite romantic restaurant. He reminded me on his way to the doctor that day for a routine procedure — that had become way too routine. But that day the procedure didn’t do it’s magic; in fact, it didn’t work at all. All it did was make him uncomfortable enough to cancel our dinner reservations, something he actually minded more than I did. We curled up together by the tv that night, still clueless that his worrisome discomfort was a portent for what was to come. Life kept us safely in its unknowing, unseeing bubble.
That day. . . it was hard not to worry again about this man who had been let down more than once over the years by procedures meant to ‘help’. And so we worried. We tried not to think about next steps, knowing the fix-it basket was slowly emptying out. All I could do is attempt some balance and calm for him, still having no idea the fabric our lives was slowly unraveling. I couldn’t have foreseen that his beautiful birthday card to me would be his last. And I certainly never anticipated that the fragrant birthday blooms, decorating my hall table, would pale in comparison to the showy sprays of funeral home flowers.
That day . . . I had absolutely no idea.
Today I look back on that day — and now I take nothing for granted. While I’m really not up for celebrating my birthday, I’m grateful that I am here to mark one. My husband was not accorded that gift.
This birthday . . . I’m grateful for all I had and all I have still. I’m conscious, more than ever, of the importance of each day, of the power of our words and the ability to say every day ‘I love you’ to those we cherish. I’m critically aware of saying what you need to say. I’m thankful that my man and I did because that day, that awful day I never saw coming – there was no warning; no time for words or goodbyes.
This birthday . . . is certainly not what expected. Birthdays will never again see my husband raising a glass along with a kiss next to me. But, if I’m gifted another day, another year, I will continue to be grateful for all that is left, for all I’m blessed with.After all, no matter how we celebrate or grieve THAT day – there will only ever be THIS day, our now. Our past – the good, the sucky, the joyous or terrible – gave us the strength and wisdom to arrive, still standing, at today.
“Statistics prove that you’ve one birthday, one birthday every year
But there are 364 unbirthdays and that is why we are all gathered here”
The Mad Hatter was actually on to something. We can’t live for tomorrow – even tomorrow’s birthday. So this year, make more memories – lots of them.. Take that trip, write that letter, make that phone call, say “I’m sorry; say “I love you”…more. Eat decadent cake for no reason. Feel the blessings of friends, family, even just breathing. (No small thing!) Laugh more; complain less. Time flies – but never faster than one day at a time. So be in the moment. Celebrate THIS day. This one day is all we really can count on anyway.
For me, I think I just might celebrate this year’s un-birthday after all. No, not in the way I would have, but maybe in the way HE would have — with ice cream.
And I’ll have mine with sprinkles and a boatload of salted caramel, thank you.