I have a funny relationship with my kids birthday parties. It all started with Bertrand's first birthday. Being my typical self, I said, "He's a baby. He doesn't care about parties! He has everything he needs." So, we did a small dinner with family.
We didn't even buy him a present.
A few months later we learned that Bertrand's condition was fatal. He could very likely die before his second birthday. Bertrand could die never having had a birthday party.
This would not do.
I don't know about you, but my birthday parties are some of the most vivid and loved memories of my childhood. Big parties with lots of food are a hispanic tradition.
Bertrand couldn't possibly die without having had one. So, he had a huge 18 month birthday bash. It went against everything in my nature (party person, I am not), but I made sure he had a party all of us would remember.
Since then, Bertrand has had more (in my humble opinion) fabulous birthday parties. And when Victoria came along, we followed the trend. Her first birthday was small but fantastic.
Then this year came along. My wise brother-in-law Steve said that all of his birthday parties were family affairs. What was wrong with that?
What indeed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Matthew is flying out to Germany and will be missing Victoria's actual birthday. A small non-party birthday celebration suited us just fine. Tonight we'll be having a small dinner with family.
I was fine with this, until the last couple of days.
Wednesday night I learned that our dear friends Javier and Noralia's daughter Iara had passed away. I spent the entire evening clutching Bertrand and sobbing. (He was a good sport about this. He kept laughing. I tell myself he was happy that Iara was free.)
I woke up with gritty eyes and a headache the next day with the intention of buying Iara's rose for my garden, but something stopped me. Later that morning, with a sinking feeling, I read about Gavin's condition--multiple seizures and three cardiac arrests in less than 24 hours. My heart was heavy but I knew I'd be ordering another rose.
Typically, I only buy rose plants to memorialize the children I've known in "real life". But even though I haven't physically met Gavin or even Iara, I am more emotionally connected with them and their wonderful parents than with many of our "real life" family and friends. These children and their families are a continuous source of strength and inspiration for me. It's an honor that I get to care for them (even if in a small way) and keep their memory alive.
Its a peculiar, heart-wrenching kind of joy when I see Victoria point to one of my plants and say "flowa fo Nannah" (translation: flower for Hannah). I tell her how Hannah loved the colors pink and yellow--just like Victoria. And how Hannah loved Minnie Mouse, and dancing to music. We go inside and play "Ice Ice Baby" (one of Hannah's favorite song's) and I watch Victoria jump and dance.
While I keep the memories of my precious flowers children alive, and strive to fund and conduct more medical research, I find that the greatest way to honor these children is to Live. I strive to live my life fully, and encourage those around me to do the same. To dare greatly, and achieve, nay, exceed potential. Every day is a gift.
I really wish I was throwing Victoria a big birthday party. I want to celebrate ALL the people I love. For now, I'll settle for lots of hugs and letting the people I love know it. And yes, dear blog reader, I love you too. :)