A lot has been going on this past week. Most notably, birthdays. I wrote last week about Shelby’s birthday and all the emotions it brought up for me. I don’t think it is any coincidence that my mom’s birthday was just a week after Mike’s daughter’s. And thusly, as happens most years, emotions are high. For years now, I have been celebrating my mom’s birthday the same way. Every year, on February 26th, I go buy a card, some flowers, and a tasty dessert and I enjoy this day in her memory. I did the this over the weekend, only a bit different than previous years. I still bought her flowers - bright, cheerful sunflowers. I still picked out a card, and wrote her a letter in it. Instead of one dessert though, I bought three. Because I decided to include Mike and his daughter in this tradition. For me, but more so for Shelby.
When I was Shelby’s age, I didn’t see any version of continuing to celebrate my mom on special days. We didn’t talk about her, and we certainly didn’t celebrate her. To even mention her felt very taboo. I didn’t want another little girl to grow up with that same feeling. Shelby deserves to see examples of how people can still celebrate the ones that have died. How they can still be in our lives as we live on. She deserves to have ways to celebrate her mom when her birthday and Mother’s Day arrive. She deserves to feel like the people around her support that idea and understand that she still has the right to have a bond with her mom.
As we were all chomping down on chocolate cakes at the dining table together, I explained my tradition to Shelby. Mike suggested maybe she’d like to do something like this for her mom’s birthday. She liked the idea, and immediately suggested we also do it for Drew’s birthday too. It was one of those moments, where you are just kind of awestruck by where you are sitting in your life. Even two years ago, I would have never imagined I’d be sitting here at a table in Ohio building some version of a new family with a little girl. I would have never imagined that she and I would “get it” so effortlessly in regards to including everyone we love that has died. For all the moments that I am unsure of my role in her life, and all the times when I feel scared or doubt my own ability to be a good influence… moments like this really make it. Moments where I get to right some of the wrongs in my years of growing up with the loss of a parent. Moments where another little girl helps me right those things. Moments where I get to be a positive example and influence for her, not because my life has been easy or perfect… but because my life has been difficult and painful. The tragedies of my childhood have come to reveal treasures. Like a lantern, my losses have become tools I can use, in hopes of making the journey for someone newer at all this a little bit brighter.
Ironically, that theme isn’t only present with Shelby lately. I have been reaching out to support other widows in a different way recently. I have been in the works on building an online workshop to help guide people in learning to cope creatively with life struggles. For years I have wanted to step into this role, but my own confidence has kept me running. I’m still terrified, I still don’t know what I am doing or if it will help anyone at all… but I took the first step this weekend. I finally launched the fundraiser that will help me to build this online workshop and community. Asking for help in this way has taken me months to gain the courage to try. To ask others to believe in me and my ability to help others is huge. It’s so personal, and requires all of my heart to do, and still I am scared I somehow won’t be able to pull this off. But… I want to TRY. And I deserve to try. I want to see what I am capable of. Shelby, surprisingly enough, has given me a newfound confidence to step forward with this workshop. Learning how to support and help her, how to guide her but also let her be her own self going through her own experiences… I started to see that if I just give myself a chance, I can be wonderful at supporting others. It’s the fear that always gets in the way.
Today, I am feeling proud. Proud that I tackled a 9 year olds birthday party for the first time, and all the emotions it brought up. Proud that I shared this new tradition and opened up my heart a little more in doing so. And proud I am taking this leap with the workshop, when I have zero clue of how it will all turn out. When I first moved here in October, it was such a big risk in itself that I quit taking a lot of other risks. As my heart required, I buckled down a little… I curled up into my fear a bit. It feels good to be taking some new risks again… to be trying things without knowing if any of it will work. It feels like honoring Drew, and my parents, to be throwing myself out there and seeing where life takes me.