Jean Fannin McGuire would have celebrated her 68th birthday tomorrow, April 24, had she not passed last summer.
I am not predicting the day will be easy. It represents several forks in the road for our family and forks mean choices that have to be faced.
My daughter, Tracy, will have the toughest road because her mother and her husband, Ben, celebrated the same birthday. Tracy would have been very tempted to be sad all day, but that’s not really an option when she must celebrate with her wonderful husband. I predict she will pay tribute to her Mother, cry a little and move on to Ben’s big day. That is the way life is supposed to work.
I face some important forks too. I can choose to celebrate the 39 very happy Jean birthdays I spent with her during our engagement and marriage. I can remember the romantic surprise getaways to hotels, the elaborate presents of fine jewelry and her favorite gift which I gave her frequently the last several years–High Tea at one of the two or three fine restaurants in Phoenix which offered them. An anglophile at heart, Jean had High Tea in the finest places in London and simply adored the fussiness of it all.
Or, I could take another fork in the road and remember her last birthday when she desperately wanted to go for High Tea and simply was not strong enough. If I remember that one I am going to cry as I am right now. I was so damn sad because Jean was broken-hearted that she could not muster the strength to go. She really tried to keep that reservation I had made, but it was just too difficult. In desperation I made another reservation for our May 10 anniversary, but she was even weaker for that one. I have been more than a little obsessed by my failure to get Jean to one last High Tea.
There is a nagging temptation to collapse in grief over the anniversary of Jean’s birth, but that just does not fit where I want to be these days. I work very hard to celebrate Jean and not mourn her. She was a wonderful gift in my life and I try every day to thank God for that gift and appreciate what we had. That is really important to me because I am building an exciting and happy new life with someone and that too is a remarkable gift.
Anniversaries, birthdays and other key memories are vital milestones that allow us to remember, appreciate and celebrate what we once had. But that’s the key. I ONCE had a great life with Jean but, sadly those days are gone. I must not wallow. I must not languish in the barrel of grief because of an anniversary. I need to simply pay tribute to my wonderful life with a great woman.
I must turn toward tomorrow. Jean would clobber me if I didn’t live life to its fullest. She believed with all her heart in the lyrics of
Turn, Turn, Turn which we sang at her funeral.
To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
A time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal.
A time to laugh, a time to weep.
I will always make time to weep for Jean, but it’s time to laugh and love again too. Happy Birthday sweet Jean.
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance