Happy Burfday to Me!

Tomorrow marks my 57th birthday.  I was 52 when Owen died.  His body was found two weeks before his 21st birthday, after he had been missing for four nightmarish days, nights, and all the moments in between.  Nat had just turned 25, in one of (what I predict are) his many primes.  Age has nothing to do with how we handle losing our loved ones – and everything.  But, more, experience helps to determine how we move through loss, grief, finding new purpose, and along the lines of a trajectory we commonly call “forward”.  How does age have anything to do with losing a child?  I don’t know…for you.  I only know for me.

Being a hopeful person with a bag full of reasons to ditch hope to the curbside, I hope that you find meaning in your loss.  Each loss is unique, whether devastating or beautiful.  Oddly, loss can be both.  I know this like I know that the sun will rise tomorrow (god(s) willing and the creek don’t rise).  If you are new to this time and place of losing a child or another loved one that holds unfathomable and insurmountable grief, my words may sound vapid, empty, hollow.  At times now, I am amazed at the fact of my family’s rebounding abilities.  We not only survive, but we thrive in the unending gap that losing Owen left behind.  We see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and learn with new hearts and minds.  We continue to continue.  We not only observe our changes, but examine the questions, the answers, and the space which holds no tangible relief.  We find new meaning.

How do we navigate the gates to the “other side” whether we are the one walking through, or the one letting go?  In our own ways – ways that no one else can know from our perspectives.  We do it all because we are still here living from one day to the next, from one birth to the next death, and from one simple moment of awareness to the next moment of realization, and in my case, this evening – from one birthday to another.  Humans are relentlessly hopeful.  I am one such human.

I just flew in tonight from the beautiful state of Washington, where I was visiting with Nat’s and Owen’s godmother and my best friend, Lea.  Driving around Bellingham, where I couldn’t hold myself back from choosing streets where Owen once walked, played guitar, engaged others in an afternoon’s game of hacky-sack, or where my memories took me to the utterly sorrowful memories of “the last years”, I became aware of another aspect, another piece of the puzzle, another gift of grief.  I was aware (again) of time passing, the duplication of memories layered on top of memories, and of time and no-time.

I like numbers, but not math.  As of tomorrow, there will have been 1,737 days between the day the sheriffs came to our house to tell me Owen’s body had been found in the Petaluma River and my 57th birthday.  I can’t quite grasp this number, yet, I accept that it is true according to our linear and inadequate calendar.  I see numbers as meaningful, and math as a complex system of trying to make sense of those events which often don’t.   I like numerology, because I like connections to things present, past, and future.  Math tells me that there may be finite answers to problems.  I don’t believe math will solve this puzzle.  I do believe that symbols will continue to find a home in my heart.  Owen liked numbers and understood math in a way I never could.

Tomorrow will serve as the number 9 for me.  I see “what’s next” as my response to humanitarian efforts, an acute attention to acceptance, and a view from the balcony.  I have always loved my time on the dance floor (minus that night Dave dropped me in a spin and I went flying onto the hardwood!), yet, in my choreographer’s role, I see the big picture.  We’re all there dancing together.  How will the dance look from above, from the cheap seats?

Just the way we always imagined it…the jigsaw falling into place.

Owen back in the old days, at Stuart's Coffee House. Thank you, Carla.

Where we go from here…almost two years ago…Nat and Anna’s wedding.  Happy Anniversary on March 17!

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~ by Linda on March 5, 2012.

5 Responses to “Happy Burfday to Me!”

  1. Beautiful. Happy Birthday Linda…

  2. I think of your son when I hear the song Oliver James by Fleet Foxes. And Candace too. But mostly Owen. Have you heard it? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpq1kw3MXcE

  3. Kitty, thank you for the Fleet Foxes music. Not just “Oliver James” but all of it. This is something I miss from the Owen years – new music. Thanks for being a conduit. Have fun at SXSW! I tried to arrange a trip there, but, uh, not this year. Sing your heart out!

  4. Happy birthday wishes to you. Just got back from Washington myself – we lived there for 25 years prior to the death of our son. A bittersweet time for me, retracing paths we had walked and places we had been when Jason was alive. In some ways, it made me feel oh-so-close to Jason…and in other ways, oh-so-far-away.

  5. Not having gone through this form of loss it is hard to imagine. I have become aware of how common child loss is and I continue to grow and learn as a parent, thanks to people like you who are open and willing to share your experience. I am from Washington so this caught my eye. My friends and I also like to say “burfday” and that brought a smile to my face and caught my eye as well. I’m truly sorry for the loss of Owen. I hope you are able to do something special for your burfday. And I also want to thank you for sharing your story and your hope. Sarah

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