My first birthday without my mother

I have a birthday this week. It’s my first birthday without my mother.img_0032

I’m not asking for “happy birthdays” or even remarks about “how good I look for my age.” I’m just trying to settle into a new decade (yuk!) and lean into who I am and who I’ve become. I’m desperately trying to move forward. Be proactive. Embrace a new era. But I feel as if my feet are sinking into a muddy pit, and if I step forward, I may sink further. And I will certainly lose my shoes.

There’s a new me ahead. The problem is I’m not sure I will like her.

And to make the week a tad more complicated, in seven days, I will also “celebrate” my parents’ birthdays. They were both born on the same day–Oct. 31–and they are now both gone from this life.

img_0040This is October, our birthday month, but we will not eat chocolate cake together. I will not buy Mom a present this year, not something I’ve picked out just for her that brings the exclamation, “You didn’t need to buy me gift!” I will not sing her “Happy Birthday” while she ducks her head modestly and laughs. I will not hear her ask how old I am now and marvel at the number. I will not thank her for being my mother or kiss her cheek while she tells me I’ve been a good daughter.

I have enjoyed 49 birthdays with the woman who gave me life, and this will be the first one without her. People who have grieved a loved one’s death warned me about this moment. They told me that all the “firsts” this year would be hard. I believe them.img_0036

This is my first “first.” I am a minefield of emotions, and I’m not completely sure how to tip-toe through this without blowing up. Already, I’ve handled it badly. I’m stepping on land-mines, and I’m sprinkling my grief all over the people around me, peppering them with raw, jumbled emotions, hoping they can read my changing moods and illogical expectations, even though I can’t.

img_0038Happy birthday to me. I’m older, wiser, and painfully aware of life and death.

I’m sure that’s a good thing, but this week, I’m not liking it so much.

10 thoughts on “My first birthday without my mother

  1. Lisa Bonnema

    Dearest Sue,
    Know exactly how you feel. Lost my mom 2 years ago. It is amazing how much our lives matter to those who love us and what a hole we leave behind. I honor my mom by trying to take care of those she loved and to fill in some of the gaps she left. She was an amazing woman!
    So sorry to hear about your mom. She was wonderful. I admired her strength and how she raised you. You are a wonderful tribute to who she was.
    What gives me comfort is to realize that she is on a journey slightly ahead of me. I look forward to meeting her again. I know she will greet me and show me all the wonders of heaven. She was my greatest teacher outside of the Holy Spirit. I’m so grateful for her!

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Lisa, your mom was also amazing. I think of you and her often. Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, I agree–it helps to do the things she did and value what she values. Memories are sweet, and I’m grateful for that. So many people don’t have good memories of their parents who’ve passed on. When you’re this age and you had a great mom, you like the idea that you’re turning into your mother. 🙂

  2. Katie Foth

    The big five-zero is a sobering birthday. Not long ago, I hit the big six-zero, and the sobering self-examination felt similar. The mile-marker prompts one to face her own mortality and question the significance of her life here on earth. God doesn’t hand out performance reviews (merit increases either). I realize I have to continue to trust Him on a daily basis, being faithful in the small tasks He’s given me. Fun? No. Exciting? No. Well, sometimes. Pleasures like family visits take on more significance. So do friendships. Jobs come and go, but family and friends… those are a foretaste of heaven.

    I’ve learned to trust more in God’s loving kindness and forgiveness. He loves me even though the summary of my life is mere dust. He understands my weaknesses and all those things I hate about myself. Even through the low moments, He still loves me. He’s not done yet with His handiwork in my life, but I chose to trust that when He’s finished, His work will be good–very good.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Katie, you have great insights. I agree completely. Here’s hoping I will recognize and relish all the things in life that really matter. I’m sure this ability improves with age. Thanks for writing about this. Blessings!

  3. Julie

    Wow, Sue. So hard. And compounded by the first of your own birthday without your mother and then the first of her birthday without her here. I haven’t noticed you posting about grief for a few weeks (although I certainly could have missed it) but if you felt like you were doing “okay,” then this grief probably hits you even harder.

    I’m sorry. I’m sorry she wasn’t able to be at your big surprise party (as you know she would have been there after moving to Richmond). I’m sorry she couldn’t be in the pictures you posted….with yourself, your boys, your MIL. I’m sorry you can’t give her a gift in person this year. Guess you could still pick something out for her, but it wouldn’t seem to make sense if you can’t actually give it to her. Lots of reasons to hurt and grieve.

    How cool that your parents shared a birthday! Same year? October will still always be your birthday month that you share with them. You shared it with your Dad for so many years when he wasn’t around. Now I guess they are finally celebrating it together in heaven.

    Praying for you as you navigate these firsts. Glad you have others to help you along.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Julie, thanks for writing and for understanding. I am doing alright. I can just verify that what other people have said about grief is true: it comes and goes in waves, without warning, settling into every corner like a heavy blanket. Tomorrow I may feel positive and happy. It’s bizarre. And no, my parents were 2 years apart. But on Monday, they will be together for their first joint birthday in 48 years. Only I expect that in heaven, no one cares. 🙂

  4. Beth Alley

    Going into a new decade is one more triathlon under your belt. Rough and smooth waters swam through, wind in our face and behind us up the hills, exhilarating downhill spins, a flat tire or two, then that 26 mile run, with fellow runners and then solitary times, rocky roads and smooth, getting closer to the finish line where friends and family are waiting. And all the grueling training that went into this race, now appreciated. Congratulations, Sue, on your 5th decade! I can’t wait to see how God will use your future given the stronger muscles and mental toughness being formed! Love, Beth

    1. Aurelia Fernandea

      The way to have some comfort when we lose a loved one, is that God promises that we will see our loved ones again. I look forward to seeing my loved ones, I trust in His word, I’ll just do what He leads me to do in the meantime ,Ezekiel 44; 25 Love Aurelia

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