This morning two friends of mine called to wish me “happy birthday,” and I nearly burst into tears. When they called, I was in the middle of reading my sister’s texts updating my middle brother and me about my father’s condition. Why is it that when we’re heartbroken and most need to be loved, that it’s actually the most painful time to be loved? That when that protective layer is pockmarked and wounded by grief, even the kindest, most well-meaning of wishes becomes an abrasion.
This morning I felt ridiculous and even somewhat petty reading everyone’s lovely birthday wishes—some of which made me actually laugh out loud—as they populated my Facebook wall. Because I’m connected via social media to many people at work, there was a steady of cacophony of “Happy Birthday” as I ran into people in the halls. I didn’t quite know what to say. I said thank you, of course, but I felt as if I needed to qualify that thank you. “Thanks for remembering, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to celebrate and be happy when my father is dying such an unkind death.”
I briefly though about canceling my plans to have dinner with a small group of friends after work, and throughout the day I kept incanting under my breath, “It’s okay if you cry at dinner; they’re your friends.”
I did decide, ultimately, to not cancel dinner. And I did let myself fully enjoy the well wishes. Love hurts. But finally, I’m learning, that’s not a good reason to run away from it. And if we don’t learn to bear the hurts, maybe we never learn to fully bear the joy of love either.
Deborah-Ann Denise Beete circa 1978
Today my gorgeous, intelligent, funny as all hell, simply amazing sister turns 40. She wrote such a stunning post for me for my birthday that I wanted to do the same for her on her special day. And what better way to show Debbie how much I love her than with this list of people I love her even more than…
the person who invented donuts
the person who invented popcorn
President Obama at the exact moment he signed the Executive Order that gave federal workers last Christmas Eve as a day off
the Eiffel Tower (which is a person in that “if you like the Eiffel Tower so much why don’t you marry it” kind of way)
the last person who gave me an actual donut
the entire cast of NCIS
the person who invented the list poem
Bradley Cooper speaking French
Ryan Gosling doing anything
all of the Gilmore Girls
Because of Debbie, I know what it is to give love and even more important to receive love. I am so blessed to have you as my best sister. You are truly the best birthday present I ever received—even if you were 23 hours, 1 day, and 17 minutes late.