Today is my mama’s 73rd birthday. Last year, when we were in the middle of battling her cancer, we tried to celebrate her 72nd birthday with a family dinner. The details are a little vague because we were so overwhelmed by what we were dealing with. We asked her how she’d like to spend her day and she tried to muster up a little enthusiasm, but it required so much energy — energy she didn’t have.
I remember we got sliced brisket, fried okra, coleslaw, and the trimmings from a local barbecue place that we’d frequented for years. My sister and my girl both made desserts. I can’t remember what my sister made, but my girl made an “Orange Slice Cake” that Mama had asked for.
We really hoped Mama would be able to enjoy the day, but I think her illness had progressed much further than any of us realized at the time. She was tired and the radiation treatments she received in May had fried her tastebuds. It didn’t help that the barbecue place we’d always enjoyed seemed to be slipping, with the brisket being half fat — and I’m not exaggerating. It was terrible. If we hadn’t been so worn out from everything else, one of us would have taken that styrofoam box of fat back and demanded a refund. The cake my girl made was delicious, but it was a very rich and heavy cake — more suited to a wintertime dinner than a summertime birthday party.
After the so-so birthday dinner and cake, my sister started feeling poorly and within about thirty minutes, she was shaking with chills and fever. Her symptoms were so frightening I, along with her kiddos, took her to the urgent care center while my guy and girl stayed with Mama. I can’t remember what the final diagnosis was, but meds were prescribed and she began to feel better. By the time we got back to our mama’s house, it was late and time for everyone to call it a night. I remember being sad that it was more than likely our mama’s last birthday with us.
Today, on the anniversary of that day, I’m sad. I miss my mama and I miss the sound of her voice (my sister and I chuckled about that earlier – that we missed her voice, except for when she was nagging us about something she thought we needed to do or not do). I have her voice on a recording from my voicemail and every so often I will listen to her say, “I was just calling to see what you’re up to. I love you.”
Like I said, I’m sad. But I’m also happy, too. Because today is my mama’s first birthday in heaven with the Lord. And she is with her mama and daddy, whom she has missed since they passed away in the mid 1980s’. I like to think they are enjoying a family dinner with the best food (it is heaven, after all) and lots of good conversation and love.
Happy birthday, Mama. I expect being healthy and surrounded by love is the best birthday gift of all. I love you.