A little less than 24 hours until what would have been Leslie's 33rd birthday. I would have given her a hard time about being TWO YEARS older than me, as I always did on that day, and that nonsense would continue for the next couple of weeks or so until I could no loner claim such a thing. It's been on my mind, to be sure. But every "first" that passes becomes more manageable, as God continues to heal and unveil the blessings of the new life he's set before us. Peace abounds rather than emotional burden. Happy memories and smiles fill the quiet spaces of the day rather than tears and questions. (More on the smiles and memories in a minute...) But to be sure, this "birthday week" has been on our minds.
Not sure how or why, exactly-- I don't think anyone said anything to him-- but TJ asked me tonight, "Dad, when is my mom's next birthday going to be?" I stopped in my tracks. We were just putting away the drumset to clear the floor for our baseball game, and it was just spontaneous and rather matter-of-fact. I asked him if Mimi had mentioned something to him about Mommy's birthday. (My mom has been in town helping out since mid-last week, with Miss Liz on Spring Break, TJ being sick-- ear infection now that he's kicked the puke virus, and things pretty crazy for me at work.) He assured me that no one had told him about his Mom's birthday, and just seemed rather surprised and curious at my response. It just seemed to him like a normal question to ask me, after all.
I sat down on the basement stairs and had him sit on my lap. I told him that Mommy's birthday was in 2 days-- on Wednesday. "Oh, I think they're going to have a GREAT BIG party for her in HEAVEN!" He said. I agreed, and told him it would be an extra special one because it was her first birthday in Heaven. He got all excited and asked rhetorically if we could go to the party. I said, "TJ, you know that we can't go to Heaven until Jesus is ready to come get us, and it might be a very long time. We probably won't go this week. But when we do go, we'll have LOTS of birthday parties for Mommy to get caught up on all the ones we missed while she was there without us." He smiled and did an excited little dance, quite pleased with this explanation. Then, we began to plan our own little birthday party for Mommy, just TJ and me. We're going to Red Lobster. (It's been his favorite special treat lately-- yes, the kid LOVES lobster... I know... I'm creating some sort of monster... It will be his second trip there in a week. He suckered Mimi into taking him once when I was away on business last week.) We're going to eat lobster and we'll have them bring a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Mommy with us. (Seriously, they'd be cold-hearted or just plain dumb not to, at such a request, right? I mean, the kid can be VERY persuasive!) I assured him that Mommy would be able to see our little party and it would make her very happy that we're having birthday cake with her, while she's having her party in Heaven.
So, that's how TJ and I are celebrating Leslie's 33rd birthday. Now, here's your opportunity to join the fun. I'm inviting every reader of this blog to post a comment. I seldom give a shout-out for comments. But I'd like to just honor Leslie in this way. Some of you have never met Leslie. But she means something to you... You know her story, you are living her legacy. Tell her (by clicking on "comments" below) what she means to you. Those of you that knew her, share a memory. Tell a story, or share something about her that you truly appreciate. I believe she can read-- or feel, or somehow know-- these comments as you share... carried up on the wings of angels, perhaps... like some sort of Heaven-bound birthday card or e-greeting or something.
Let me start by sharing a brief memory... Of when I first met Leslie...
She was a Psychology major at good ol' Taylor U. in Indiana. I was a Psych. minor, so we had a few classes together. She'd "caught my eye" as they say, and I got up the courage to ask her on a "study date" before a mid-term one semester. To say we hit it off would be... well... an outright lie. Oil and water. No chemistry. I thought she had a chip on her shoulder and was hard to get to know. She thought I was a cocky punk with an attitude problem. (She was probably not far off.) That was that. I'm not sure if we ever spoke again...
...Until a couple of years later, after we both graduated and happened to both move to Indianapolis... Where we bumped into each other at a party... And were married about 18 months later. My, how a little "coming-of-age" can change one's perspective! Or two people's perspective.
So... What's your "Leslie story"? Join with me in celebrating Leslie on her birthday.
PS. Just found out this morning that my book proposal for Leslie's Journey is being presented to publishers in the coming week(s). If you think of it, I could truly use some prayer, that God would open and shut doors and make His desires known as to which direction we should go with this. Let the adventure begin! Or continue, I guess...