Even just a few years back, I could go through an entire birthday without anyone even knowing it was my birthday. Oh sure, my mom and dad knew, and my husband and kids knew ... but that was about it. And I was fine with that. I could go to work or church or wherever, and as far as anyone else was concerned, it was just another day.
With the way technology keeps us all connected now ... those days are over.
The birthday messages actually started on Facebook yesterday. My brother, who lives in Indonesia where my birthday arrives 13 hours earlier than it does here, posted a Happy Birthday message on my wall, and the flood of greetings began. Nothing makes you feel loved like 180+ people wishing you a happy birthday online.
Over the past few days, I've received a handful of birthday cards from family members and sweet friends, and I was greeted with a couple of e-cards from my nieces in Indonesia this morning. Today, my phone was continually sending me text message alerts. Really made my day.
And then there were the greetings some not-so-expected sources ... my dentist's office, the American Red Cross, Stage Department Stores, the University of Arkansas Alumni Association, the Arkansas Blood Institute, and even the Arkansas Speech-Language Hearing Association. Sure makes a girl feel special.
I remember my first couple of birthdays after Hannah went to Heaven. Honestly, every "Happy Birthday" wish at that time felt like a sucker punch to the gut. How could anybody expect me to have a happy birthday (or Mother's Day, or Easter, or New Year, or Christmas) when my child was gone?! What were these people thinking ... ordering me to have a happy birthday? Didn't they know that was impossible? That I would probably never have a truly happy birthday again? It really made me want to karate chop somebody in the neck, to borrow one of Bethany's favorite sayings.
I'm so glad that feeling hasn't lasted. That was a miserable way to be. Over time, God has brought healing. I no longer spend my birthdays mourning what I've lost ... instead, I find myself in awe of what I've gained:
- A deeper faith than I've ever had before
- An appreciation for the "little things" in life (which are actually the big things)
- An eternal perspective
- A God-given compassion for hurting people
- A fresh excitement about the future
- A new group of life-long friends (all of whom have children in Heaven)
- A grown daughter who makes me very proud
- A soon to be son-in-law who we are thrilled to welcome into the family
- The privilege of being a part of the While We're Waiting ministry
Am I still sad that Hannah is not here to share this day with me? Of course. There will always be a sadness in my heart ... at least until the day I see her again. But that doesn't mean that I can't also have joy. In fact, I think it's amazing that God created us with the capacity for both great sadness and great joy ... and we can even experience both at the same time. Only He could do that, and I'm so glad He did.
So tonight, I'm five birthdays closer to seeing Hannah again than I was when she left. And that's the best birthday gift of the day.