Remembering Heaven Birthdays
Ryan and I cuddled under a blanket, watching the latest episode of our favorite show together on his cell phone.
"His birthday was March 12th, so John wanted us to meet at the terminal." The date in the dialogue jogged my memory.
"Wait, Ryan, pause the show for a second. What's today's date?" Ryan hesitated, confused, but eventually pressed pause and pulled up his phone's calendar.
"It's past midnight, so technically today is March 12th."
"So, tomorrow is the anniversary of Joel's death."
"Tomorrow? Or the 14th? It's the 14th I think."
"I'm almost positive it's March 13th. Can you check?" He checked Joel's website; it was down.
He scrolled back through social media and realized he hadn't posted anything. Finally he found a strange memorial site someone else had posted online. It had a surprising amount of information.
"March 13th. So, Wednesday."
"We almost forgot. That's weird. We could have missed it."
"I wonder how tall he would have been."
"He'd be ten now, pretty big I bet."
"Maybe he'd be shorter from his treatments." We sat in silence for a minute, keeping a few thoughts to ourselves.
𝐹𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑠. 𝐴 𝑏𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑘 𝑜𝑓 𝑎𝑛 𝑒𝑦𝑒. 𝑇ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑔𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑙𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑛 ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑢𝑠. 𝐼𝑓 𝐼 𝑑𝑖𝑑𝑛'𝑡 𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙 𝑅𝑦𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑜𝑦𝑠, 𝑤𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑎𝑦 𝑜𝑓 ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠 𝑏𝑦 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑛𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑖𝑡. 𝐼 𝑎𝑙𝑤𝑎𝑦𝑠 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡. 𝐼 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑜𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑑𝑎𝑦. 𝐵𝑢𝑡 𝐺𝑜𝑑 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑤𝑒𝑑 𝑚𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑖𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑡ℎ 𝑐𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔. 𝐼 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 𝐻𝑒'𝑠 𝑟𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑖𝑡'𝑠 𝑠𝑜 ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒. 𝐼𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑏𝑒 𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑖𝑒𝑟 𝑡𝑜 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑐ℎ 13𝑡ℎ 𝑠𝑙𝑖𝑝 𝑏𝑦 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑜𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑑𝑎𝑦 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑟. 𝑊𝑒'𝑑 𝑔𝑜 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑐𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑓𝑎𝑖𝑟 𝑎𝑓𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙. 𝐶𝑎𝑙𝑒𝑏 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑔𝑜 𝑡𝑜 ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑦 𝑟𝑒ℎ𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑠𝑎𝑙. 𝑁𝑜 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑛𝑒𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑟𝑦 𝑎𝑡 𝑎𝑙𝑙, 𝑏𝑒𝑐𝑎𝑢𝑠𝑒 𝑤𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑𝑛'𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟.
We won't skip tomorrow. We have an appointment to finish an art project we started before joel died. A mobile made of hearts. Each one has Joel's thumbprint on it alongside one of our own. The dried clay pieces have sat in a small box above my cupboard for five years. Five years. They have lived in that box as long as Joel lived on this earth. I look around my living room at all the things that have lasted longer than my son did. My couch, my television, the books on my shelf, our toys and dishes and silverware. It doesn't feel fair. I don't want tomorrow to come. So I make myself read back through the words God gave me to write four years ago today: the answer He provided for all the days when I feel like this.
"A few months after Joel died I decided that I had no interest in celebrating the anniversary of his death. I did not understand why so many people focused on such a terrible day. I had no interest in remembering the day he died. If I had my way, we would let it slip by unacknowledged, forgetting the exact date altogether if we could. However, as I was thinking these things a new thought slipped into my spirit, God’s answer to my resistance. 'It’s not just the anniversary of the day Joel died, it is also the anniversary of the day Joel entered Heaven, and that is worth celebrating.' It stuck.
I realized that I had an opportunity to teach my children something valuable about anticipating the fullness of the life we gain in Heaven. So, tomorrow morning we are celebrating Joel’s heaven birthday. I talked to them about Zoe, and how, before she was born she was alive, and she liked her little life in my womb. It was dark and she could hear some sounds. She had what she needed and every day was a lot like the day before. Until the day when she was born, then her whole world started to shake and there was pressure and the warm buoyant sack of fluid that kept her safe burst, and she was probably pretty sure that it was the end. However, on this side of things, we all knew that it wasn’t the end, it was just the beginning. Sure enough, she was born and there were colors, and the mommy voice she had heard was a whole person, and she got to taste things and experience a much fuller life than she had before. She was alive before she was born, but we celebrate her birthday because that was when her life became fuller.
I asked my children how often they had heard people refer to death as “the end.” I told them that just like Zoe may have thought her birth was the end, we may think of death as the end, but it really is just the beginning of a new and fuller life. Joel was alive before his heaven birthday, but when he died here, he gained a fuller life, and he is experiencing things now that we can’t even understand here. We laughed a little, and talked a little, and there was genuine joy. So tomorrow, we are getting balloons and releasing them into the air, since we really don’t know where heaven is anyway, but if we could, we would give Joel balloons for his heaven birthday. I don’t plan on re-living the hard moments from a year ago, at least not any more than I already have. I plan on making tomorrow a celebration of something that is really worth celebrating instead, and I hope that as we do this year after year my children can learn to live for eternity, to look forward to heaven. I believe that is a lesson worth teaching."