There's a pull on my heart today---the kind that won't let go even though I'm enjoying a day that's all about spoiling me---my birthday. The wrapped presents on the kitchen table embrace mystery, and a magnificent chocolate cake made by my son Ben awaits. My two daughters whisper in the next room, and once my husband comes home, the five of us will go out to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant.
Yet, through moments of this day, the bittersweet mixture of pain and joy is evident. There's no denying that this ache stems from years ago when I sat in a hospital room with a little boy. He was the patient, but it was my birthday. The nurses brought in a cake with candles for me. The boy smiled, and wiggled with excitement as the nurses sang. Later he ate two pieces of cake.
Much later, he threw up. Seems chemo and birthday cake do not go well together.
Less than a month after my birthday, I cradled his breathless, bloated body in my arms and wondered how I'd ever live to see tomorrow.
I was not planning to have to live his August birthday without him. Nor mine.
Now, thirteen years later, I'm wrinkled. I might even have gray hair; I don't really know because I color it at least once a month. But the little boy is still four.
Each year on my birthday, his smile warms my heart as I recall the way he sat on his hospital bed, happy because his mommy was being treated to a cake with candles.
Each year I wish I could see that smile for real, and not just in my bin of recycled memories. When my birthday cake is sliced, I want to offer him at least two pieces.
Sweet Daniel, perhaps there's cake in Heaven. Perhaps the angels sing. Once I've wiped the tears from my eyes, I'll listen for your voice among them.