Yesterday I turned 45. It’s my third birthday since Ken died, and it’s also a date that will forever fall two weeks after the profound date of his death. The dates have been so emotionally intertwined, it had been difficult to get excited about my birthday. I figured it may never happen. But this year I felt differently about it. For the first time in a long time I got really excited about my birthday weekend, and the plans I’d made. I wanted to celebrate. And it felt really, really good.
As I partied the weekend away with my friends, it felt both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time. It felt like it had always been this way. That all my birthdays were always happy and filled with love and friends and laughter. But they weren’t. The last couple have been filled with disinterest and sadness, wishing they could be spent with Ken. This year felt “normal” which–to me–is experiencing something in the way I would have before Ken’s cancer came back in late 2009. Or sometimes it’s even how I would experience something before I knew him.
Either one initially comes with its own form of survivor’s guilt. But even that doesn’t arrive with the punch it used to. I think moving past the two-year anniversary of his death earlier this month has begun…something…new for me. These past two years have felt like slowly ascending from the murky, uncharted depths of grief into the brighter parts of the journey–where there is light, sunshine and a path that becomes more visible every day. And it reveals some freedoms I didn’t even know I was lacking, and reminds me that Ken will always play a part in my life no matter how many birthdays pass before me.
Of course, I thought of Ken over the weekend as I do so many times daily–like breathing–and reflected on my 40th birthday party, and all the surprises he laced it with and delighted in presenting to me. And it didn’t hurt like it used to. It didn’t leave me breathless with a cavernous pit in my stomach, filled with sadness, regret and longing. It took me away to a warm summer day in June where my backyard and my birthday were filled with love and friends and laughter.
Just like this year.