A Tale of 3 Birthdays

I have a new appreciation for appreciation. Know that prayers spoken and unspoken have been answered in the last few days.

10 days ago I had no special plans for my 32nd birthday…I was planning Gabriel’s baptism and an Easter celebration, my birthday was an afterthought. Then Sean called our landline - John handed me the phone with a twinkle in his eye - they had conspired.
Unlike my 30th birthday surprise (that involved me coming down the stairs one month postpartum spilling a mug of coffee from one hand and a bottle of breastmilk out of the other when everyone yelled “SURPRISE!”) Sean and John decided to give me a heads up this time.

Sean told me he was 1) flying down from NYC to visit for four days and that 2) he was going to build a memorial garden for my mother and grandmother who I lost last year.

Hot, fat, silent tears streamed down my face. After a long pause, all I could say was “Sean, I wish you could see my face!” (why didn’t we facetime this!?) He said, “I know you, I KNOW what you look like.” I mean I could hear his smile and know his face, of course he knew what mine would look like upon such news.

Flashback to my 31st birthday, which was 15 days after my mother died. Just long enough after the turmoil for my closest friends and family to return to their lives and for people to think it was time to “give me my space.” My birthday was the first day after she died that I didn’t have something planned to do and that I didn’t have anyone special keeping me company to make sure I was ok.

April 5, 2014 was another tragically beautiful day so I took a then 13 month Quincy outside to our large “outdoor living room” tent that John had set up. I vacillated between numbness as I stared at my beautiful baby boy and heart wrenching sobs as I realized he and any future children of mine wouldn’t know their grandmother. Birthdays are really, really hard without your mom…especially after you yourself become a mom and know what that really means.

I was desolate.

Easter 2014 was a hard but uplifting day that we spent with John’s parents. We moved my mother’s things out of her apartment that weekend and then tried to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with as much cheer as we could muster. The next day, I called my grandmother for what would be the last time to tell her about our Easter and to tell her again how much I loved her. She had been on hospice since 5 days before mom died and couldn’t talk but I hope she could hear my love. It was hard to not talk about mom’s death with Grandmother but I didn’t want her to worry about me or get confused since she was on so many drugs. I remember being mad that I couldn’t get one last faith-filled pep talk from the wisest woman I’ve ever known. I wish I had asked her what it was like for her when her mother died back when she could still talk, but that day she couldn’t. It was a hard, sad one-sided conversation and apparently it was her last.

Fast forward to a year later and I am amazed at the grace and peace and joy that I have found.

I am still grieving.

I am still hurt.

But there is such beauty and love in this world that astounds me…that inspires me to continue sharing with you.

Thank you to everyone for the notes encouraging me to share. It gives meaning to my suffering to know that I may have helped. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of such notes as:

“Your grace, vulnerability, faith, love and raw emotions speak Jesus in to my life and others.”

What!? That’s about me?! I pray that I can connect with people on that level, but I always feel like I fall short or miss the opportunity…my handful of blogposts and FB statuses have done this for someone? Anyone? Praise God!

So Sean arrived late Thursday night after I had gone to bed. I woke up and it was like Christmas to run upstairs and find him chillin with Quincy like best buds. Apparently Quincy had woken up a little early and Sean (bless him) had decided to go get Q so John and I could sleep a little longer. Q was happy as a clam.

Aside: Sean is SO good with kids and babies. Here’s a picture of Sean with a one month old Q on my 30th birthday.

Sean with Quincy on my 30th Birthday

Sean’s patience and love knows no bounds. His creativity and expressiveness comes in handy when cajoling a toddler. It was so fun to see him interact with Q! Sean is also an impeccable houseguest who loads and empties dishwashers, tidies things in his wake, and will pitch in with putting the kids to sleep. It was such a blessing to have him here for these past 4 nights.
Sean and John got to work. Before they started the retaining walls for the garden, they thought they would be able to knock it out in the two days they had planned but instead they got about halfway done. It still means so much for them to add their sweat to my tears.

Yesterday - Easter - was my birthday proper.

My dad flew in the night before so John, Sean, my Dad, Q, and I got to share an Easter casserole and fruit salad I made for breakfast. We watched Q open his Easter basket and do his first proper Easter egg hunt. Then we changed the boys into their matching sailor suits and left for church to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the life everlasting, and the precious baptism of Gabriel Lincoln Athayde.

John and Quincy Quincy and a crying gabriel

John’s parents drove in for the service and to eat lunch with us after. It meant so much to me for Gabriel to have this cadre of loved ones around him in addition to our church community.

After lunch they sang me happy birthday and I opened some presents. Then I taught a Bradley natural childbirth class - because I enjoy it so much not because I had to. And then a lovely evening at home with my favorite four boys: John, Q, Gabe, and Sean.

Me with Sean

What an amazing day.

My initial feeling to it all is that I don’t deserve it, but thankfully it was Easter. As my dear friend Amanda recommended, we should leave all such thoughts in the tomb and celebrate. So I did.

Thank you for your prayers. Please keep them coming. Know that yesterday was the kind of awesome day that feeds my soul and gives me tangible faith in God’s promises. Thank you.