Today is Natalie’s birthday. She would have been 35.
She also would have seen that her daughter’s hair is getting long, her son looks more and more like her brother (my husband) the older he gets. She would have seen the falling leaves and would have quickly been getting into Halloween festivities and taking pictures of her kids in crunchy piles of orange and yellow. After all, that’s what she liked to do this time of year.
And if she peers in on us today, she’ll see that we miss her. A lot.
All that’s been on my mind today is that I lost the memory card that has a ton of pictures Natalie and I took together early last year. I haven’t been able to find it and it bothers me. And I’ve also been thinking about how quickly time has flown since last year at this time. She was getting sicker and she knew it’d be soon–she valued time. She even told us she was grateful for time–any time–that she had left. And she didn’t waste a second of it.
So to celebrate Natalie’s birthday today I decided to do exactly what she’d want me to do to celebrate. I visited my dad.
He’s just as sick today as Natalie was last year. And the timing of it all is awful, I’ll admit, but I’m grateful that I have what Natalie taught me. All we’re promised is this very second so how will you use that second? How will you use today to become closer to those you love?
When I visit Dad and he tells me what the doctor’s have said–that this is the beginning of the end and he doesn’t have too much time left–I feel like that little girl again who’d tip toe out of bed and watch him leave in his truck before the sun would rise every morning, headed to work for another day. I felt so sad back then. *Pretty much an oversensitive child who hated seeing my parents leave for anything*. But I admit. I feel the same way now. I don’t want him to go.
It’d be easy for him to break down into tears and embrace fear when we talk about it openly. I mean, there’s such a feeling of the unknown. There’s pain. There’s sadness. He has cried. But it never lasts long. Before we all know it, he’s laughing, cracking jokes, and telling us he’s excited to see his dad again and his grandfather and all the many people he’s lost along the way who will be waiting for him at the veil, welcoming him in with warm smiles and plenty of stories.
It was hard for me today. It was hard to sit by his bed and hear the voice in my head saying, “Remember this, Kayla. Remember this.” It was hard to remember my sister-in-law celebrating a birthday in Heaven without us and realizing that next year, my dad’s birthday will be the same. It’s not easy at all.
But time, that precious thing Natalie taught us more about, is ours to use. Time lets us become close to our family, our friends–or complete strangers. Time allows us to develop gifts, use our talents, and bless lives. Time lets us get one more hug, one more laugh, one more opportunity to store up blessings that will carry into eternity. Time gives us the chance to learn about who we are, who we love, and simply WHY we love.
I’m thankful for the time I was given to know Natalie and love her and have her here with us. And I know without a doubt that she’s having a blast where she is, celebrating her birthday in style *as I would expect from her*, hugging those who are still here remembering her and those big Natalie hugs, and constantly reminding my heart that it doesn’t end here.
Because when time seems just as frail as the veil that separates us, it’s nice to remember the other side, where the hands of time stand still and suddenly we learn that this blink of an eye that seems like forever–never really separated us much at all.
That’s something she gave me today on her own birthday– a very timely reminder, too.Thanks, Natalie. And happy birthday, girl.