Author: Elizabeth Rozier
Birthdays have never been particularly difficult for me. I have a happy life. I realize with each year that I have grown into someone different than I was last year. Life brings changes and changes bring character. So as I age, I am grateful that I am not the same person I was the year before. However, every so often I have a moment during my birthday month that I recognize that someone I love isn't getting older with me. His face in all my pictures will be forever young, forever 25. He won't get wrinkles or gray hair or even lose his hair. I, on the other hand, will try and attempt with exponential effort each year to look forever 25 and won't succeed.
Despite not usually suffering under the knowledge that my biological clock is ticking, I did have one particularly tough birthday, my 25th. You see, I am 18 months younger than Jonathan, the oldest of our sibling quartet. I was 23 when Jon died at the age of 25, and the thought never really occurred to me that I would actually get older than my brother someday. I remember as a kid the frustration I had because Jon would taunt me with the fact that he would always be the oldest. I still cry when I think about my desire to be older than him someday. . . who could have known? Even now my baby brother is older than Jonathan was when he died. I am not sure other family members notice the passage of time like siblings do.
This month I turn 33 and I recently started organizing my mountain of neglected photos into albums. I found one photo of myself from right after Jonathan died and realized what 10 years and a lot of grief has done. My brother won that age battle again. He still gets to be the oldest and now he even gets to look the youngest. Will there be a day when I am wearing my TAPS button and someone thinks he's my son, eek. That thought scares me a little. I don't think the awkwardness of explaining our bereavement to someone ever completely diminishes.
I think in all my blogs I talk about the inability to completely and comfortably discuss my life without Jonathan being mentioned. I have self-diagnosed myself with a disease I call Chronic Oversharer. If you make small talk with me long enough, I will bring up my family and that leads to discussion about Jon. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (does the current generation even know that expression?) his life and death so completely shaped who I have become that I am not sure I will ever accomplish the ability to ignore his presence in my life. I think as I grow older, I am learning how to discuss it with grace. There is a beauty in our story, and with every year that brings another mark of age there is more grace to that story. This year I accomplished big things in sharing my story without falling apart completely. I was asked to tell my story in a crowd of several hundred people. I was able to share with all smiles (and no tears) about grace and mercy that accompanies the pain. I was told by many friends afterward that my story is so compelling. It's not the pain that makes it compelling--it's the triumphs.
So, as I turn one more year older, I recognize that I have had one more year without my brother, one more year of healing, one more year to tell my story, one more year for God to mold me into the person He wants me to be, and one more year to continue my journey.