We had a wonderful weekend of birthday celebrations. But now the party has ended, everyone has left and I’m left with my quiet thoughts. The heaviness and memories I have set aside all day cannot be ignored any longer.
It was two years ago on the day of my son's birthday party, my mom received the call from her doctor letting her know she had pancreatic cancer. She had thought the party started at 5:00 and arrived early. She and I were the only ones here to take the call. She put the doctor on speaker phone so I could hear the news of her PET scan. It was a very lucky chance he called when he did so she was not alone when she received the news. I had spent the last few weeks traveling with her to various doctor’s appointments to help determine the source of the illness she’d been suffering from for months. We thought it may have been an intolerance to gluten or some other food allergy. The doctors took bloodwork to determine if she had picked up some sort of parasite during her travels. I had thought she might be suffering from complications due to a bladder surgery she had two years prior. After months of no answers the doctors finally decided to perform a PET scan.
It was on this phone call we found out the results of that scan. My mom and I spent the next several hours of my son’s birthday party pretending we hadn’t just received life changing news. We did everything possible to not ruin his birthday.
A few months after her diagnosis she took me shopping so she could purchase a Washington State Cougar Football coat to give to him at his next birthday. She sent it home with me because she didn't think she would be with him the following year. As God would have it, she was here to give him the gift herself. He wore that coat a few weeks ago when we attended the WSU Homecoming Football game. This year, as God would have it, she was not here. This was the first celebration of many we will celebrate without either of our parents.
We all felt the absence. But as our parents would have wanted, we still laughed. We made jokes at each other’s expense, sang ‘happy birthday’, opened presents and celebrated an incredible young man.
In the quiet aftermath of a great day, the tears surface. Remembering 17 years ago Austin’s grandparents were the first to walk into the room and hold him in their arms when he was finally born. They visited him every other day for months. They were his biggest fans and in attendance at all of his sporting events. They taught him how to water ski and how to snow ski. But most importantly, they taught him what it means to have a great sense of humor, work hard, treat others with kindness, be a team player and love family above all else.
My birthday wish for my son, is to use his special day as a celebration of his past blessings and rejoice at the beautiful journey he has ahead. Although there are two less voices joined in the chorus singing ‘happy birthday’, there are two angels to guide him through the best years of his life.