My 58th birthday has come and gone, and it was a good day despite missing Will acutely. I got to go out to dinner with the family, and they made me a cake that they didn’t set on fire this time. I heard from all of my kids as well as my sister, who calls precisely at 10:27 AM every year because that’s the time I was born. I love that; my mother used to do the same thing until she passed away, then Louise took over where she left off. It’s tradition, which means more to me the older I get.
Birthdays always lead me to indulge in another tradition, and that is my annual reflection on how the past year went and what I’ve learned during my latest trip around the sun. Obviously, Will’s death has taught me a good deal about becoming more self-sufficient—I’ve re-learned how to do laundry, cook for myself and the family, and so on. But the biggest surprise is discovering that I can be brave, and carry on with life despite a grief that permeates every aspect of my existence.
I remember when I turned 50, how I thought I’d finally “arrived”. I held the key to the meaning of life, and I walked around dispensing what I believed to be superior advice gleaned from a half-century of living. Now that 60 is on the horizon, however, the only thing I know is what I don’t know; I have more questions than answers. Like, what IS the meaning of life, and why do we humans have to suffer catastrophic losses? Is there some reward for slogging through it? And if we do manage to get past the worst of it, will we really see our loved ones again someday?
I want reassurance that Will is OK. That he’s somehow able to watch over me, and that he misses me like I miss him. On the other hand, I don’t want him to be sad, I want him to be supremely happy with God and our little girl. If what I believe about the afterlife is true, I needn’t worry, but there’s always that nagging feeling that it’s not possible for someone to be in two places at once. How can Will be in Heaven and yet here with me in spirit?
These are the questions that keep me up at night. Although I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago when I was having something of a mixed episode, my sleep is still erratic and I can’t seem to get to bed before one or two AM. Last night I was up until about 3. I make up for it in the mornings, but staying in bed till 10 or 11 isn’t good either, even though I have absolutely nothing to get up for. I’ve never been a morning person anyway so I don’t feel too bad about sleeping late, but I know I’m supposed to feel bad because my sleep pattern doesn’t conform to society’s. Why?
Well, I’ve strayed pretty far away from the original topic, which is my birthday and what has taken place since the last one. Suffice it to say that I no longer believe I know everything, like I did when I was a newly-minted 50-year-old. Now I’m just a sadder and—in some ways—wiser version of that woman. But I’ll never again think I’ve got life by the balls, because I don’t. No one does.