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Happy Birthday, Michael

Monday, November 21, 2011
It is finished. We are through with all of our first birthdays without Michael. (Of course, we still have the holidays ahead of us, which will be, I believe, the hardest of all.) His was the only birthday remaining and it was last Monday, November 14. The day did not present itself the way I thought it would, which, in hindsight, I believe God orchestrated my day to keep my mind, and the children’s, busy on other things. I am not at liberty to give details, but I spent the entire day handling problems that had arisen with the foster boy that we had all of last year, his younger 4 year-old brother, their parents, and the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The ordeal lasted 48 hours ending with the judge giving me temporary custody of both of these little, precious gifts. (Michael used to refer to our children as “little, precious gifts”.) There was little time for reflection at any point in the day to think about what it is was like a year ago that day, but there were a few moments that arose allowing me to cry, miss him, and remember.

My body awoke at 5:00 a.m., which it has been doing more than not lately. I went downstairs, fixed myself some green tea, then sat quietly in the dark of my keeping room while I prayed, listened, and meditated on God. After awhile, I impulsively began to quietly sing “Happy Birthday” to Michael…..through tears. If Michael had been here, I would have set the table the night before and there would have been gifts sprawling down the middle of the table. His favorite breakfast of “Magic Marshmallow Puffs” and bacon would be in the oven welcoming everyone down for our family tradition of the birthday breakfast. I would get to go upstairs and wake him up with a birthday kiss…..one of the few days in the year that he slept a little later and I got to wake him up. The rest of the morning would have been full of love, laughter, good food, and all of Michael’s comments as he opened presents. With each present, he would shrug his shoulders and wrinkle up his nose with a smile and satisfaction over the gift. He would say to me, ”Oh Babe! I love it!” or to the children, “Thank you, Angel! It’s perfect!” or “Thanks bud! That’s just what I needed!” I sat in silence that morning thinking of these things, and before I knew it, two little boys were in the kitchen wanting to know what was for breakfast. Life was going on….

From that moment until about 2:00 p.m., there was not a minute to think about anything but the present moment. I am not even sure if I stopped to eat lunch that day. We also had a family birthday tradition of eating lunch together at Brent’s Drug Store. He always ordered a Brent’s burger with cheese and large, vanilla malt. It was fun and refreshing to get to see him and celebrate again in the middle of the day. He loved joining us for lunch any time that he could. This November 14th, there was no special lunch. The kids ate leftovers and I worked through the lunch with phone calls trying to handle the issue at hand, concerning these two little boys. Suddenly a meeting was called at the Department of Human Services, of which I had to attend, and bring the boys. We would meet their parents at the meeting. I took our Assistant Pastor, Steve, with me for support. We sat quietly in the waiting room after the boys and their parents were escorted to a back office for an “interview”. I was finally sitting still and in a quiet room after a morning full of a flurry of phone calls. The heaviness landed on me suddenly, the Super Woman fa├žade was able to recede back and my weak self emerged. I was really missing his support, his presence, his strength, his wisdom, and his protection. I began to cry and Steve quietly listened and asked a few questions as I reminisced about past birthdays with Michael. I had planned on making his favorite Italian cream cake that morning, but was not allowed the time. I thought that it might be something that would be good for the children and me. I had made an Italian cream cake every November 14th for about 20 years of the last 24. There was no cake this year.

By dinnertime, phase 1 of this whole ordeal with the little boys was over and phase 2 was to begin the next morning at 8:30. The strength was waning again. A friend of mine called me to ask me if I was okay (meaning, how was I handling Michael’s birthday….she did not know about anything else.) and I immediately started crying on the phone. She asked if I needed her to come over and I quickly answered with a barely discernable ”yes” through the tears. She was there in no time and we went outside to walk the dog together. She walked the dog while I talked and cried. I shared with her my day and my thoughts. At times, I felt like I was crying out to God with my questions as I expressed myself to her. I trusted Him but I really did not understand what was going on at that moment. I have not felt this way very often, but it was definitely a “Why me, Lord?” moment. What have I done to make you think that I am strong enough to handle this? What do you see in me that I can’t see in myself? Why both of these hard mountains on the same day? Why now? Why not a year ago while Michael was here to walk through it with me? Of course, there were no answers at that time, but I was full of questions.

We ended the day with takeout salads from a local restaurant (no favorite birthday meal of veal, smoked sausage, bacon and sage over angel hair) and went to bed early. The day was over. 2011 was Michael’s last year here on this earth. I told his siblings that morning in a text that 49 years ago on that day, God sent one of His chosen ones down from heaven….and we were fortunate enough to be in his earthly family.

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