I knew it was looming ahead, but never took the time to confirm until I returned to work recently and began regularly looking at a calendar again to realize Ken’s birthday was fast approaching. Very fast.

Today is Ken’s birthday. I have to say I really like typing that in the present tense (is–not was, were, did, used to be) because it still is the date on which he was born. A date that feels more appropriate to mark–rather than the day he died. Or at least feels more worthy of celebrating. It would have been his 47th.

Yesterday had some sucky moments for me, dreading what today might hold. But I’ve learned some lessons during the past year and just rolled with it. And like a dream sequence, I woke up today…feeling happy. It’s the day Ken was born. What could be more worthy? I have to be grateful for this day. It began a life that became intertwined with mine and brought me indescribable happiness–and, in fact, still does. No matter what has happened, his influence changed my life–and still continues to help shape it in more ways than I can possibly realize. Even more, meeting and loving him brought so many wonderful people into my orbit.

I over planned for today. But autumn seems to have settled in Chicago, so today’s weather threw off some of the plans I had. But what I wanted to do most was go visit the nurses and staff at the Creticos Cancer Center where he received both unparalleled TLC and a faithful fan club for whom to perform his antics while receiving treatment. His last visit there was a few weeks before he died, and I’ve been twice to deliver baked goodies since then. The oncology nurses there are heroines. They perform magic every single day, and I was in awe of them from the moment I first encountered them. Every time we were there for treatment, they were lighthearted, positive and loving. Once Ken was resigned to the fact he had to go there for treatment, he embraced it, made the most of it, and always looked forward to seeing the staff–and vice versa. It was one of the many gifts he possessed.

I’d anticipated that today would be tinged with sadness. But it just…wasn’t. I woke up happy, knowing what an important day it was. And during my travels I even tried to be sad–out of some kind of respect–for what has been lost, but I couldn’t. So I let it go. My mood was fortified by seeing all the loving posts on Ken’s Facebook wall; loved ones paying homage to him and sending messages of love, gratitude and humor. It was an incredible affirmation of what he was–and what he continues to be–for those of us who loved him.

I’m a little surprised–but not completely–that today wasn’t a mess for me. It heartens me and convinces me that I am moving in the right direction. And that’s a huge relief. It’s easy to get lost on the journey of loss and grief. Your compass spins like a top. It can be difficult to find the “markers” to tell you you’re on the right path. Today was chock full of them.

On Ken’s last birthday in 2010–his 45th–I worked months ahead to ask friends and loved ones to help me compile the “ken-do dictionary”: words and phrases that described Ken’s indomitable spirit, humor and grace. I–well, anyone, actually–could only hope to be thought of with these sentiments. Click the photo below to see the entire volume.

Today was the kind of day he would have loved: full of expression, love and surprises.




8 thoughts on “What His Birthday Inspires

  1. Ron, this was so nice. I’m glad you celebrated Ken’s birthday with joy yesterday. Ken sounds like a real crackerjack and a hero! Hope you and your sweet pup have a wonderful weekend. It’s fall-like and beautiful here too. Happy belated birthday to your love and be well, my friend.

    1. Elisabeth, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family are doing alright and leaning on each other. I’ll be thinking of you. If you need any encouragement or positivity, give me a shout! =)

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