How my young children and I mark each birthday of my late husband
If Mick, was still with us, he would be 44 years old today.
He died five years ago from brain cancer.
To mark his birthday, every year, my two children and I visit his memorial at the cemetery. We then eat hot chips and other foods that Mick loved in an adjacent park and playground overlooking the beach.
I always ask the kids beforehand – “Would you like to do the same thing again this year?” and the answer, especially this week – is always a resounding “Of course!”
The kids are always excited when an opportunity arises to eat lots of treat food yet there is more than that to their positive response. They feel a sense of loving connection and comfort to the cemetery and their father because
- in the first year of our loss, I put a lot of thought and planning into Mick’s place of rest,
- we gathered with friends at the cemetery and park for the first two death anniversaries,
- the three of us have quietly marked each of Mick’s birthdays year after year and
- each week Mick’s parents visit us and pour love into the kids. (We know Mick’s parents will also visit the cemetery today and that they will be comforted in their loss by knowing we have visited too. )
Continuing to mark Mick’s birthday is important and helpful to my kids yet a part of me wants to ignore the day. It takes a lot of emotional energy and presence to acknowledge our loss and love.
To support myself, I read this poem as I prepare for the day.
The poem always inspires me and gives me resolve to mark the day and share memories of Mick with our children.
Today I celebrate the life you lived
and the blessing that you were to me
during your time on Earth.
I remember you.
I feel you.
I know you exist
in my heart and elsewhere.
I sip your favorite drink
and taste the food you loved,
the simple pleasures that are no longer yours,
exchanged for the joy
of being Home,
I love you.
in your honor,
I celebrate Life.By Lisa Sarick A Ritual and Prayer for the Birthday of a Deceased Loved One
Our visit this year went well. I knew that my kids would be keen for new stories to feel a further connection and understanding of their father and what he liked to do. It would help them if we did something extra.
I decided to first take them for a bike ride in some parklands nearby the cemetery. It is a place where Mick used to train for triathlons and where I used to exercise regularly. Our kids at 8 and 9 years of age, are now old enough to cycle around the 3.5km circle loop.
We enjoyed riding around the loop together watching fancy cyclists and runners whizz past us. The kids liked knowing that their Dad once cycled and ran on the same paths.
Afterwards we visited the cemetery which is the part that I find the hardest.
It is always heart wrenching and feels so unfair that paying respects to their father’s ashes is reality for my young children. Whenever we visit, I’m mindful that I am usually subdued. I try to find a balance of solemnity and levity to support the kids. I try to listen, show and share some emotions but not too much.
This year’s visit was similar to previous years. I made small talk as we approached. I was relieved and amazed when yet again, as soon as we arrived my children jumped out of the car and bounded over to Mick’s memorial. They kneeled down with reverence and read the plaque to themselves. (For the first few years that we visited, both of them were too young to read.) I reminded the kids of how much Mick loved them, how proud Mick would be of them and the traits of Mick that I can see in them. Then our visit was done!
We skipped to the playground. They have outgrown most of the equipment since our last visit and enjoyed being more confident, capable and courageous on the hardest monkey bars. We laughed, chatted and feasted on hot chips and ice cream.
I marvelled at how our discussion flowed with light and ease between
- questions about what Mick loved to eat and do,
- memories of previous events held in memory of Mick and
- fun times in our current lives right now including recent adventures with my boyfriend and his kids.
As we chatted, I recalled a conversation that I had with Mick when we realised he had no more treatment options and therefore not much time left with us. I told him
- that the kids and I would be ok,
- that we would always miss him
- that I would do my utmost to make sure that our kids knew how much he loved them and what an amazing man he was,
- that we would still find ways to embrace and enjoy life despite our loss and that
- we were grateful for his love and for being part of his life.
I smiled as I watched the kids play with a few tears and a lot of joy. We were indeed celebrating the life that Mick lived and the blessing that his love was for each of us. We are more than okay and enjoying every day.
Love, loss and gratitude intertwined.