Thursday, October 22, 2015

Celebrating When the Guest of Honor is Absent

Today I went birthday shopping for my daughter.

I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some fun fall decorating items, and even a "JOY" Christmas ornament.  

I found the cutest wooden block that says, "You are loved" ... and I just couldn't pass it up. I love the "present tense-ness" of it.

Then it was off to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for a Mississippi Mud Cake ... her all-time favorite.  This has been the cake I've made every year for her birthday; at least since she was old enough to leave the Barney and Barbie birthday cakes behind!

A little later today, I'll pick up a dozen roses, her favorite flower, and bring them to her.

That's all I'm going to get her this year, because I really don't know what else she might want.  You see, she'll be turning 24, and I haven't seen her or spoken to her since she was 17.  She was just a teenager then, interested in clothes and boys and American Idol and politics.  (Yes, politics.)

I have no idea what her interests would be as a woman of 24.  She might be married by now with a baby on the way.  Or she might be working on a master's degree in some field of interest.  She might be into travel, or gardening, or hiking, or writing.  She might be a missionary in a far-away land, or she might live right next door to me.

Compared to the joy of her first 17 birthdays, the last seven have been very quiet ... No fanfare or singing or blowing out of candles.  No anticipation of her excitement as she opens her presents.  No hugs of appreciation and affection.  No good-natured joking about getting older.  Only an emptiness and a longing for what once was.

I loaded all the birthday gifts in my car and made the 65 mile drive to Mount Zion Cemetery in Yell County, Arkansas, to deliver them.

I am so not okay with delivering my daughter's birthday gifts to a cemetery.  Nothing could feel more wrong.

It's hard to celebrate a birthday when the guest of honor is absent.

But, although my daughter is absent, she is not lost.  And she is not under that headstone.  She is where she was created to be ... I am the one who is out of place.

Does that make me miss her any less?  Absolutely not.

I can thankfully say that on a day-to-day basis, God has restored my joy and I do not grieve with the intensity that I once did.  But there are still days when the "missing" is enough to bring me to my knees, and birthdays are one of those times.

But God has given us a promise.  Isaiah 25:8 (ESV) says, "He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken."

Death will be swallowed up, the sting of tears will be wiped away, and I will see my Hannah again.  I just have to wait.

Image from


Kathy Bowles said...

Jill, this is a beautiful tribute and I appreciate your sharing it.

Big Pitt Stop said...

So beautiful and a fresh reminder of why we continue to fight.

MarshaMarshaMarsha said...

Happy Birthday, Hannah! This world is not our home... Praise Jesus for that.

Monica Roberts said...

Beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing. ♥

Sharon Lakey-Jean said...

Thank you Jill for sharing. I hope someday I will be able to deal with Matt not being here on his BD's like you have. I still take brownies and Dr. Pepper to his memorial place, Just cry uncontrollable …I find myself doing that more often after just over 4 years. Prayers please.

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you all for your kind comments ... You have blessed my heart today! <3