At 52, you’d think I would stop celebrating birthdays. My four older siblings would say I always wanted to be spoiled. My friends would say I have always liked a good party. And they would all be right.
But I really started celebrating birthdays when our son stopped having his.
When Jake got sick, my shopping compulsion kicked in. I bought birthday presents for him for the next 10 years. A therapist would say I did that hoping I could will him to be here to open them. It didn’t work.
But my need to celebrate birthdays remains. I am never going to be the wife who tells her husband, “no gifts this year, I have everything I need.” I’m never going to be the mom who asks for books to donate to the library instead of gifts for her kids.
Jake taught us —- Life is short. Eat the cake. Have the party. Open the dang gifts.
Birthdays aren’t about being spoiled and getting expensive gifts. They’re about celebrating this thing called life. And our continued ability to live it.
Today, we remember Jake on his 21st birthday. We remember his laugh. And his awesome voice. We remember the toys he got for each of his four birthdays. We remember his silly dance and his uncanny ability to talk to strangers. We remember his “need for speed” when he drove his little sister or friend, Aly, around on his John Deere jeep.
We remember how sweet and loving he was to the little sister he called, “babe.” We remember him wearing super hero costumes whenever the mood struck-not just on Halloween.
On this day and every day, we remember our Jake and honor his life, his death, his legacy.
A gift for Jake this year is for you to do something he would do today. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Wear super hero pajama pants on your next Zoom call. Book that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Tell someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile that you love them. Take a mental health day and focus on you. Take your kids to a store and buy them something just because. Talk to a stranger and make their day a little brighter.
Happy 21st Birthday, Jake. We love you. We miss you. We will never stop celebrating you and trying to live the way you taught us to. – Ann Fahey-Widman