Saturday Morning Message: Honoring Birthdays
Author: Carol Lane
Awhile back there was a discussion with a TAPS group about celebrating our loved one’s birthday and I thought it would be a good question for this weekly message. The responses this week came from those who answered that question. The quote at the beginning really speaks to our feelings about keeping our loved one’s memory alive.
Sometimes after reading the Saturday Morning Message, a thought comes to mind, but survivors think it is too late to send it. Please send anything that comes to mind. I post a monthly Writers’ Circle which is an extended feature that includes essays and poems that survivors send to me to honor their loved ones. It also has a section with responses to the weekly question when people read the message and an idea comes to them. If you don’t receive the Writers’ Circle and would like it, just send me a note at email@example.com. Remember, you can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. I look forward to hearing from you.
Please enjoy this week’s message.
Mother of Bryon
Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the name of the TAPS Facebook page. Scrolling through it today gave me an idea for this week’s question. There are so many supports for survivors listed. Some involve travel, but others you can do right in your own home. It is important that we take time to do something we enjoy. So this week’s question is: What have you done lately to take care of yourself? It doesn’t have to be something from TAPS. It can be that you took a day off to just rest. Let’s share with others what we do to take the stress out of our lives. We look forward to learning what you do.
I am always looking for questions, so please send me your ideas. We can honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the week’s Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send it to me by Tuesday morning of the following week. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.
♫ Song for the Week
Rosalie, mother of Carl, sent the song this week which is Who Am I from Casting Crowns.
If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it to me at email@example.com. along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive. One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages, along with a few other songs special to him. You can sign up for Spotify for free to listen to the playlist. The playlist is called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance. I often listen to it and think of our TAPS family while I am on the computer.
Answers from Survivors
Responses from Survivors to last week’s question: What do you do to celebrate your loved one's birthday?
From Ruth, mother of James: Another birthday is coming and I wonder how we make it through this day. It has been 10 long years and yet I still close my eyes, if only for a moment, and see that cute little boy with blond hair waiting for a special cake. We would get the beaters out, a large bowl and get ready to create a masterpiece. Powdered sugar and butter would top the cake and then in the blink of an eye we would add the candles and decorations. The days soon slipped into years and each birthday brought a different kind of excitement, but always a cake, always made at home.
In just a few days it will once again be Jimmy's birthday. It is hard to believe that he would have been 57 this year. We will once again celebrate the wonderful day Jimmy came into our lives. I am always saddened when I think I will never have the chance to hold him, to hug him, to see those beautiful blue eyes, to hear his stories and never know if he was telling me a story or the truth.
I will always bend my knee and thank God that he gave us Jimmy, because you see I would not trade a day of his life. We were blessed with our son, brother, father, and so much more if only for a short time. On his birthday this year, we will once again think about the life we had. No one can take away our memories. You see it is not how or when he died, but how Jimmy lived, the differences he made, the love that he left in my heart. We will once again share the day with family and friends. A day unplanned, filled with tears, but most of all laughter.
From Dawn, mother of Jeremiah: Miah was proud of his Wisconsin heritage, no matter where life took him. He developed an affinity for a beer only available in our home state, so I made sure it was always in the house when he came home. We served Spotted Cow at his funeral luncheon to share one of the things he loved with those that joined us to celebrate his Wisconsin pride. On Jeremiah's birthday, my husband and I gather up lawn chairs and a blanket and head to the cemetery with two bottles of Spotted Cow, share memories, cry a little, laugh a little and spend an hour or so celebrating his day as close to him as possible. (This is the only time my husband ever drinks.) Amazingly, we look forward to celebrating Jeremiah and this different kind of celebration of our firstborn.
From Sandra, mother of Joshua: The evening before Josh’s birthday, a thought popped into my head. One time, Josh had swerved into the parking lot of a convenience store, run into the store, and came back out to the car with a bottled water and a snack for me. He then proceeded to cross the street with a drink and food for the guy sitting on a crate on the ground. I was surprised!
I decided to pay that same guy a visit on Josh’s birthday. The next day, I drove to the intersection where the guy was sitting on his crate. I rolled down the window. The man stood up, hot and sweaty, wearing a worn hat and clothes that hung on his tall, thin frame. My heart literally jumped out of my chest. This was so out of my comfort zone. I handed the man a $20 bill and the last Marine ribbon. Josh had given me a bunch of metal Marine ribbons years ago. I told this stranger that my son, Joshua, had died, and that his birthday was that day. He looked surprised at the amount of the money I handed him and then became visibly shaken. He started sobbing and said that he was so sorry. I said that the money was from my son and drove off. I honored my son by helping another. I wanted him to feel happy even if just for a little while.
I used to give Josh $20 every time he left Houston. Last summer, I was on a retreat, and I was not able to give him the $20 bill. It has haunted me. Maybe, in some way, this was Josh’s way of saying, “Mom, I do not need any money now, give my $20 to someone who could use it.”
From Deb, mother of Elizabeth: For the last eight years on Beth’s birthday, we have sponsored the local soup kitchen and when we can, we spend the day volunteering there. It feels good to see others benefit from an event done in Beth's memory. We also want to celebrate the day of happiness, not the day of sadness.
Our pastor wanted to do something that involved more of the church community. The day after her birthday, we hold a dinner at the Veteran's Village. Our local diocese sponsors transitional and permanent housing for these veterans who range in age from 30 to 93. They have started the journey on turning their life around, been drug- and alcohol-free for at least two years, and started a program of health care and counseling at the local VA Hospital. Those who are able to work hold down jobs; others do volunteer work. We are also plan for camaraderie and a time for socialization for the vets. I think this will make Beth happy.
From Michele, mother of Stephen: When it comes to our son's birthday, we continue to celebrate his life every year. We go to the cemetery in the afternoon where I usually have a beer with me to share with him. Then I make his favorite meal and have a cupcake we light with a candle and sing our Happy Birthday to him. Then my husband and I blow out the candle together. I feel this pleases our son that we continue to celebrate his life and will continue to do so for years to come.
From Becky, mother of Jared: The first year after Jared died, we had a big event on the anniversary of his death. We invited all of Jared's friends and family to join us, had a barbecue, activities for the kids, etc. I also asked whoever wanted to videotape messages that I will eventually give Jared's baby daughters. They could be messages to Jared or the girls, or funny stories and memories. The whole day went great and really helped me get to the next level in my grieving process. It was wonderful to see so many diverse people together all because they loved my son. Then last year, as opposed to "celebrating" his angelversary, we had another get-together on his birthday which was three weeks before he died. As the party wound down, we wrote messages on yellow and purple helium balloons and released them together. It was emotional, but beautiful! We also sang Happy Birthday. This summer we will again get together on his birthday, and celebrate his life, not his death.
If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.