I’m not going to lie to you, friends. As fun as Szaba’s 2-year birthday was, it was also … hard.
Perhaps unwisely, I hadn’t accounted for an appearance by Grief, my uninvited guest. I guess I was so deep in planning mode I hadn’t allowed myself the time and space to acknowledge the full bouquet of emotions this confluence of events might entail.
Then on the morning of Szaba’s party, I was blindsided on my way to pick up icing tips for the cake (particularly for a special mini cake that I would decorate in the tradition of Sue and Sue’s father).
There was some fun song on the radio, the sun was shining, Szaba was babbling in the backseat, and I felt an overwhelming wave of joy. Then riding behind that wave, to my shock, came an intense undertow of longing and sorrow.
I fought back the tears and shook it off as Szaba and I ran our errands and went to pick up flowers at the market. When I got home, I fed Szaba lunch and put her down for a nap, while I continued party preparations.
I took a moment to do something I love to do: arrange the flowers. And that’s when the tears came. In that quiet moment alone, the emotions could no longer be held at bay. I wept for the two guest who wouldn’t be at this birthday party, nor any future birthday parties. I wept for two incredible matriarchs and hostesses who had passed so much on to me as about the importance of treating your kids, family, and friends to a full-scale event, complete with special touches that let everyone know how much you care. That’s what I was doing now. For Szaba. For my guests. But with these flowers especially, for Sue, Shirley, and all they had done for me.
Of course, I had way too much to do to let the grief stop me, so I literally worked through it. Imagine my husband’s surprise when he found me crying while cleaning the toilet. With a look of half amusement, half concern, he raised an eyebrow. “Is it really that bad?”
No, it wasn’t really that bad. It was and is part of the journey of grief. Times of immense joy are the favorite stomping grounds of memories. And though those memories may be sad and will often bring tears for years to come, I’m eternally grateful that I have them.
And at every party from now on, there will be flowers and my own personal moment of remembrance for two of the greatest women, mothers, and hostesses I’ve ever had the intense privilege to know.
And there will be parties, Sue and Shirley. Oh, how there will be parties! And you’ll be there in my heart at every single one.
What have been your unexpected moments of grief? What ways did you find to cope?