Today is the day my mother was born. A day we’ve always celebrated with her. It is HER birthday, afterall. A day to celebrate all that she is and usually all that she’ll be, except she’s gone now.
Now, we celebrate without her.
Although, I’ve never really found a way to honor this day that feels right or just. How do you celebrate the birthday of a mother in heaven? How do you properly celebrate the birthday of someone who is no longer here?
The calendar continues to remind us that today is a special day. My memory continuously holds the date in my mind. My heart constantly notes the absence and longing of this specific day. So, how do you celebrate the birthday of a mother in heaven?
Every idea that fills my head feels insignificant and empty. I have actually Googled, “how to celebrate the birthday of someone who has died”. It provides no ideas qualified enough to feel worthy. Though, after several birthdays without her here, I think we’ve attempted them all.
Do something they enjoyed doing.
Prepare their favorite dish.
Eat with family at their favorite restaurant.
Plant something in their honor.
Continue to have a birthday party.
Do something to make others smile/Pay-it-Forward.
Visit their grave.
The truth is that nothing would be adequate. The only true thing I’m searching for is my mother. I have been searching for her endlessly since the second she left this earth. No Google result list would provide the answers that my heart is searching for. I don’t want to know how to fill my mother’s birthday without her. I want my mother here to be celebrated.
I want her here. I want her back. I want to celebrate her, while seeing her face and squeezing her tight. I want to see her smile while opening the handmade cards of her grandchildren. I want to see her smirk and roll her eyes as she opens the ornery card from my father. I want to see her humbly open gifts, while gently telling us all how much we are loved, even though it’s her special day.
I don’t want to search for ways to celebrate her birthday without her. I want her here to celebrate.
So each year I search the Google, in hopes of a new answer and in hopes of a new reality. Knowing very well that’s not how life is conducted or handled. I’m an intelligent woman. I can tell reality from dreams and hopes and wishes. Except grief clouds all of that. It can sometimes put unrealistic and specific wishes into the air, with tiny, mustard-seed-sized hope that a miracle might happen.
That’s not how life works. That’s not how God works. That’s not how things work. I know this.
So, how do you celebrate the birthday of someone in heaven?
You celebrate without them.
Because you have to. Because you have no choice. Because it deserves to be celebrated, even if they are no longer here.
You find a way. You find your way. Some special way to celebrate the greatness that they always were. And it will probably always feel lacking and empty and sometimes even frivolous, but it will also feel worthwhile. It will hold purpose, even if it holds longing. It will hold relevance, even if it holds ache. It will hold sincere and authentic love, and that’s all that really matters.
You celebrate with love and honor, however that looks. It will be absent of the person you love, but full in the love and the legacy they left behind.
Keep celebrating, always.
Love is worth celebrating.
Birthdays are worth celebrating.
Even when you’re celebrating the birthday of someone in heaven.
A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.