Monday, January 22, 2007

Instead of Birthday Bliss...

I've been incredibly humbled by the events of today. It's not what I would have expected if I would have been asked years ago what my 24th would be like... Instead, it's been extremely bittersweet. There were two blogs months ago that kept running through my mind today, and though none of you probably remember them, I cannot stop thinking about the words I wrote. They are more true today than they have ever been...

On Sunday, May 28, 2006, I wrote:

And Now, There's A Hole In My Heart
I lost my uncle today.

It was unexpected, but really, when is death ever truly expected...

I know God has a plan for all of our lives, and as we sat with family and friends, I realized how fortunate we all are to have God in charge. So many things happen that we cannot explain or even begin to comprehend, but God knows what He is doing. My uncle had lived a short 47 year, but wonderful life. He had a beautiful family, amazing friends, and a sense of pride that none of us will ever understand. He was a farmer, and he worked everyday in the fields, as his father had, just as his children will do. I have never been as proud to be in a farming family as I was today. I realized how precious and important they are to one another...

My uncle Gerald and I shared a birthday... As I was telling a friend this piece of information and how my birthday would never be the same, he said this:

That, in itself, is a representation of what life is: beautiful, tragic, and timed by a clock we can't read. Your birthday is something more than it was: a reflection of life now.

On Wednesday, May 31, 2006, I wrote these words:

And The Hole Just Gets Deeper...
...I remember every year around Christmas time, Gerald would remind me that his birthday was coming up, and that I wasn't to forget to send him a card. He'd pinch me until a bruise would come up and I'd yell and knock on him until he'd let me go. Usually, I'd be laughing so hard I couldn't do anything, but he'd make certain I'd be sending him a check with his name on it for his birthday on January 22. It would be then, I'd laugh and elbow him in his side, reminding him to send me a card, as my birthday was on the same day. He'd say, "I know, I know. Don't forget my card." I'd tell him that I prefer cash. Of all of those years, I never once sent a card. Funny enough, he didn't either. But I'd receive a call that night asking for his money... Every year.

I can't imagine my life without him in it. I didn't see him all the time because I knew he was always there. I could always count on Gerald if I wasn't able to get a hold of my dad. When I needed help this past Christmas buying gifts for other family members, I called Gerald. Of course, he said they'd all enjoy a box of rocks, but then he gave me ideas as his wife gave them to him. There's just a part of me that seems to be missing without him. You know that life doesn't go on forever, but I sure wish I could have told him how much I loved him. I know he knew because we weren't the loving kind, he and I; we were the picking, poking, and joking kind. That was our kind of loving. I know the last time I saw him, he gave me his fair share of loving. I had the bruise to prove it for a week after seeing him. It's hard letting go of someone you weren't ready to. It's even harder knowing you're saying goodbye for the final time.

I can't imagine my birthday ever feeling the same because Gerald is not here to share it with me. We never once were together on our birthday, but somehow I knew we were thinking of one another and it truly meant something.

Today my birthday meant so much more to me than it ever has before. I couldn't NOT spend my birthday without him. I couldn't explain this to anyone; it was just something I needed to do. I drove to Lamont to his gravesite to share our birthday together for the first time, and although he wasn't "there," something told me that he knew I was. It was freezing outside, and somehow I was comforted as soon as I walked over to the headstone and kneeled down. Those words hurt more than any ever have before, but he knew. He understood.

I drove away, feeling like it was the best birthday I'd ever had, when the snow started to lightly fall, and the tears wouldn't stop. Every year it snows, and finally, much to my surprise, tonight was the night I saw the first few flakes of snow. I called Jan, my aunt and Gerald's wife, to tell her I had thought of her all day, because I had. It was such a strange day, to be your birthday but thinking the whole time of someone else, praying for them all day long, and hoping you both could have one more day with the someone we love. It's just a new kind of birthday feeling... one that I wasn't expecting. She and I shared a moment of memories about him, and I told her how much I loved him and her... It was very emotional, but God must have known what He was doing because I didn't cry at all. We both must have needed me to say what I did.

Birthdays are blessings, and I mean that now in the most meaningful way. This birthday has taught me to cherish each birthday and day more because I don't know what the Lord has in store. I miss my uncle more than words could ever express, and today I realized that in a deeper way. My birthday will always mean more to me because I know that I share it with him.

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