I've had some pretty exciting birthdays. Last year, I ran a half marathon in San Fransisco. Two years ago, I randomly decided to visit a friend in Denver. You get the idea. Every year, I wonder what my next birthday will be like. Let me tell you, I couldn't have even begun to imagine this year's.
My neighbor, Pat, died on Thursday. She was like a grandmother to me. She believed in me and supported me all through school. She was ecstatic when I graduated with honors in May. I'll never forget that moment when I told her. Two weeks ago, her husband, Dave, came and got my mom because Pat had fallen out of bed and wasn't speaking. My parents spent the next 2 days at the hospital. For two weeks, Pat didn't speak. When I went to say goodbye, she looked like she was asleep(so very peaceful). I told her I loved her, and how much she meant to me. Even though her eyes couldn't open and she couldn't talk, she squeezed my hand, comforting me. She was on her deathbed, and she was comforting me. That was her legacy. She always reached out to people, and made them feel special. She never forgot anyone, and was always invested. She touched and changed lives, often without either person realizing it.
Pat's funeral was this morning. The flowers were beautiful, the music was soothing, and the Mass was healing. Pat is the first close loved one that I've lost. I've never felt that pang of separation before. At one point during the funeral, the priest painted a beautiful picture of Heaven, and told us to picture Pat standing at the gates with Jesus and all the people that have gone before us, welcoming us home with open arms. That's what I'm holding on to.
I was dreading today in a way, scared that the funeral would somehow ruin my day. Instead, Pat has given me a beautiful birthday present. I'm reminded of the importance of family and friends, of treasuring the time I have with them. I'm reminded that God is the Source of all that is good, and that all that is good must and should return to Him. I'm reminded of the importance of reaching out to people, even if I barely know them. I'm reminded that building someone up, and sharing in their accomplishments(as well as their struggles), can change their lives forever. On my birthday, Pat reminded me of the gift of Life.
All this to say that today has been a beautiful birthday, in a way that I could never imagine. Even in the hardest times, God blesses us. Hold your loved ones close, but rest in the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe, the Source of all good things, will take care of them when it's time to let go.
God bless you!