Today marks a year since I went public with this little blog to commemorate Wesley’s birthday. I had a guest blog post that was posted on life as a widower and I announced my own blog creation as an outpouring of my own grief journey.
I decided I wanted to be with Wesley’s parents in the house he grew up in on what would have been his 39th birthday. This journey and being in these 4 walls with Julia, but without Wesley, is terribly painful but makes me feel close to Wesley. Last year I celebrated Wesley’s birthday in Detroit with a visit to the zoo, dinner at an amazing Italian restaurant and a day that was just as he would have wanted to be a part. I very deliberately wanted to be with Wesley’s parents because this is where he came from and to have another day that he would have enjoyed.
My heart hurts to be here without him. I can almost see him sitting on the couch and my ears strain to hear him teasing and laughing with his siblings; hugging his mom in the kitchen and the way he said “Mama” to her. To not say to him as I head to bed with Julia, “No stay up with your Dad and play World of Warcraft…I want you to visit with them.” To not feel him slip into bed long after I had drifted off knowing he had a meaningful time talking with his father and brother after the house was hushed of children playing leaves me feeling alone and my world too softly hushed.
I imagine him in every room, every fiber of this house as this was his home. The walls that contained his years of laughter and learning to walk, his sibling squabbles as Wesley’s two sisters and brother grew together from toddlers to children to young men and women, the place where he brought a nervous 22 year old girl from Florida who he already knew was the woman who would someday be his wife. The warmth of family and place a constant landing place of security and love. I feel him here and look for him in ever nook of the house that has pictures of him, frozen in time preserved in frames of silver and gold.
Today’s birthday celebration is filled with Chic fil a for breakfast, a favorite of Wesley and Julia’s and the place where they often snuck off to on Saturday mornings letting me sleep; Busch Gardens where I can see Wesley delighting in Julia’s face as she rides carousels and holds hands excitedly with his mother and father. But the most poignant moment is one that came from Julia’s planning.
About a month ago I asked Julia what she wanted to do for Daddy’s birthday. Her reply, sure and immediate was that she wanted to draw pictures to send to Daddy in Heaven in balloons. She imagined a great celestial Post Office where those heavenly inhabitants can receive their packages from loved ones still tethered to Earth. Julia knows Daddy will recognize our balloons because they are pink and purple, her favorite colors, and can show the pictures to God and Jesus that she lovingly colored of our little family. Daddy and Mommy in one balloon, Julia in another. As we were eating our breakfast of Chicken minis and egg biscuits Julia disappeared upstairs. She returned with two little pieces of white paper, colored red with hearts for my in-laws to put in their balloons because she did not want them to feel excluded. She wanted them to feel a part of her ritual of remembrance. As we released the balloons into the blue sky, willing them to miss getting caught in power lines and tree branches we saw the colors of purple, pink, yellow and orange rise out of sight until they were specks that we could no longer see.
To find joy where there is absence, hope where there is loss is a constant struggle for me. But to see the balloons floating weightless save for the small messages of love inside untethered by worldly sadness is beautiful and my heart for a moment feels light.
Happy Birthday my darling Wesley.