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{22/10/2012}   Celebrating the birthdays of loved ones who have died

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday, the fourteenth since he died.  I find it a strange day and I always feel a bit miserable around this time, but actually I think that is sort of a good thing because it means I’m thinking about him a lot and all the things that have changed and happened since he died that he hasn’t been able to share with my mum and I.  That may sound sad but it’s comforting to think about what he might have thought of X, Y, Z and it’s also really nice to properly make time to really think about him, in a different way to the every day thoughts you have about someone close to you who has died.

I used to go away for his birthday or do something special and that was really important to me.  Now I realise and feel comfortable with the fact I don’t need – want but not need – to do a pilgrimage to favourite places, and, for me, certainly not to his grave.  Now I realise I can be anywhere, doing anything, and I will always think about him.  I also make sure I see my mum around this time though, and indeed we met up the day before.  However, it is nice to go somewhere that has associations with the person.  It just happened that the weather was too foul yesterday to contemplate the day trip to Broadstairs that I’d been hoping for.

Everyone deals with death differently and nothing – absolutely nothing – can ever prepare you for how you will feel and how you will cope with the death of a loved one, even if that person was diagnosed with a terminal illness so you were expecting it.  Birthdays (that is all I am referring to today, ie not other anniversaries) are strange days after someone close to you has died because there are certain birthdays engrained in your memory that you can never forget.  Certainly for the first few years after he died, I would get very upset and woe-is-me and it always seemed excessively upsetting.  I like the idea now of doing something special, sitting down (as I did yesterday morning) and recalling a series of happy memories, having a celebratory meal (home made beefburgers in my dad’s case) and trying to feel birthday happy not sad.  Early on, I have a vague suspicion I bought myself a treat instead of a birthday present for my dad but that felt strangely selfish and I could kind of imagine my dad rolling his eyes, smiling to himself and making some suggestion that that was merely an excuse to spend some money.  After all, he did not like receiving presents.  Or so he said.  But if a tin of Cafe Creme, a box of chocolates or some comfy warm slippers were presented to him, there would definitely be some interest!

There is of course no protocol or norm and it’s a personal thing how you celebrate or otherwise the birthday of a loved one who is no longer around to benefit from any celebration.  However, probably the best birthday present anyone can give or receive is to know there are people out there who will always love you and who think happy and lovely thoughts about you on your birthday, as every day, but even more so on your birthday, for it is a day that marks your arrival in this world and that alone is something to celebrate and be thankful for.  Happy Birthday, Dad.

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