Joy in Grief – Mom’s birthday. 

This day arrives as it usually does for myself and I believe most of my siblings, quietly with grief and memories of a time when we had celebration. While it was and is in subtle ways a joyous date, there is great sorrow. Today is my Mother’s birthday. And she is not here. No phone calls to be made. No cards to write. No meals served with love or visits to be had. Not even Grandparents to call on their daughter’s birthday. It is sad, this day. It is lonely. It is also full of memories of when it was bursting with life. This contradiction we live in. It could tear one apart. 
I don’t feel overwhelmed by this date. Once, I believe I did. Now it arrives with a quiet awareness of what is and what was. I am painfully familiar with this Place, where the deep bottomless well of grief resides. Most of the external world cannot see it. I rarely bring these notable dates up within my day to day life. I wonder at that. How hard it still is to share. Within the context of my siblings and a few close friends it is almost always acknowledged and never forgotten. This feels good that outside of our crazy external world, there is still connection of what is real. What continues to move us.

I cannot find happiness or peace on this date. I also do not feel that I need to. For I can find joy – not in the traditional sense of ‘happiness’ but in the upwelling of emotion that has flavors of gratitude, delight and appreciation for the years we did get. For the context of this grief is to have known the other side of pure joy. I may not smile much on this date, but I can feel the love that is still present even after these years of sadness and despair. I don’t know what it looks like for everyone, but rare it is that I have seen a Mother so wholly loved as mine was and very much still is. How can this not bring tears of joy and not just sorrow? 

This pain we feel, it’s very real and soul deep. Words skip along the surface like stones on a stream, never sinking below the easily seen shallows and ending up on the other bank. Being told to only remember the good times is dismissive of our pain. I cannot say in place of my siblings, but for me, it is okay if you cannot connect with my pain, my grief, my reality. But do not ask me to separate from it. Do not ask me to smile for your sake. Not all of us can run from a lack of comfort, please do not burden me or my family with an inability to be uncomfortable with loss and grief. 

If I could- I would gladly hug each of my brothers and sister and tell them that I know the joy in the pain on this day. And that it is okay if they do too. That whatever it is they feel, it is okay. These feelings and emotions do not need to define you. Instead I am 4 time zones away and hope my words will reach them. I hope they find something in the ways I am able to be there for them. 

I have love on this day. I have grief and acute sadness. I have joy and a bittersweetness of memories. I have appreciation for those who see and a lack of patience of those who cannot. I don’t know what else I could give my Mother on this day other than just being me. For that is all she ever wanted for every one of her children – to have peace, love and purpose in their lives. To find joy. And mostly, to be who we are. And to grow. 

Happy Birthday Mom.

This grief, it tears apart my heart, just as the love around you keeps it going and strong. This contradiction I live in. 

~ Joannie


November 12th Has Come Again

It is Mom’s Birthday today. As I have already said in years past – it is often a rewrite about how much she meant. How much I (and everyone) misses her. How much she is still loved. I don’t have much in the way of ‘new’ to write about. She would be 56 today. She should be here. Receiving love from her family – close and afar. And like all the other years, she is not. I could rail on and on about the unfairness of it all. I know people older than me that still have ALL their Grandparents, not just their parents. I cannot tell you that it is easier now that more than a few years have past. That any of the grief is less or that the hole in ones’ chest is suddenly smaller. All I can tell you is that the older I get, the more I understand just how amazing my Mother was. How much of who I am is because of her. How growing up with her has given me the expectation that people are so much more than they ever let themselves be and sadly – often are.

I doubt I will ever sit down on November 12th and think ‘It’s okay she isn’t here’. But even the first year and every one after, I have thought every day – not just on her birthday, that I am grateful in the most sincere way of what time I did get. I don’t really know how that can be, when I would give anything, including my own life to have her here to live a full lifetime. But it is. I don’t have much else to say this Birthday other than this short – rather poorly written poem about her.


One Moment or a Hundred within everyday

I see something that is you

Hear something that is you

Feel something that is you.


The color Red

So passionate and alive

A Cardinal’s call

Warm and protective.


A Dragonfly

The guide of your heart

A light in the dark

The joys in change.


The Autumn Leaves

Flashing colors that you danced among

Fires of the heart and soul

Nature’s celebration of your birth.


Waterfalls on the landscape

The heights which you climbed

The mist on your hair

The simple delights.


Music in the air

Flutes whispering

Drums dancing a primal beat

Loons calling to the heart.


My Mother had such a way about her, sometimes the memories feel like dreams themselves ~J


November 12th is Here Again

“My mother is a poem that I could never write”

I couldn’t agree more. Every time I go to write about her, I grasp for words. I look back upon what I have just written and shake my head at the ways it falls short. Yet not writing about her at all is even worse, it feels that like the rest of the world I have moved on from memory. So I write my hollow thoughts.

Today is her birthday. Every year I wonder if it will be different, easier maybe. And so far every year it’s not. I noticed that loss of a loved one is somewhat like chronic pain: as you learn to live with it, people actually believe you’re better.  Yet in reality, you’re just getting damn good at hiding it, treating it when it flares up so you don’t totally lose yourself to it. Everyday it’s the same fight; every night you feel the same pain. Only now, its familiar. Sometimes you can even trick yourself that it’s not there because you’re so used to it, see; but soon as you relax and let yourself pause, there it is, and it’s a world of hurt. But to most people in your life, if you said the words ‘I’m sad today’, they would ask why. Even though the answer is always the same.

Below: One year Dad had to work during Mom’s Birthday. While flowers wasn’t something he did often, this particular year he went all out and had these sent to her. Needless to say Mom was pretty impressed and had a great time with the surprise.

Mom with her Birthday Flowers from Dad

Mom with her Birthday Flowers from Dad

As a child it is not unusual to think your Mom is basically a deity incarnate. As an adult it is a little more unusual. While my Mother was human, sometimes a little too intense or loud, she had the tendency to take on too much chaos with her big heart. She was also utterly amazing. The way Mom loved us kids is inspiring to what the human heart is capable of. Whatever interests we had: sports, books, travel, music, art; she did her absolute best to not only support it, but be involved. She learned about it if she didn’t already know something of the subject and would engage us in conversations about it. She also pushed us; to try new things, to meet new people, to move outside of the comfort zone and experience things. She wasn’t afraid to revise her perception of something or someone. She would teach and lead others as if born to it, and then in the next moment, go to a class or seminar with us and be a model student.

Every year I feel like I’m just re-writing the same words. ‘Mom was the best’ ‘I really miss her’ etc. I guess I can take some comfort in that my feelings don’t change with time. Over the years I notice things that I wish I could have shared with her: an idea, a new artist she might like, thoughts about my life, the people in it, the world and how it affects me. To hear her thoughts and dreams as they changed and evolved. To get lost in our infamous half-day conversations (5 hours could go by and still there were subjects to be covered).

It’s her Birthday and all I want to do is light up her eyes by telling her how much she means to me. To plot with the younger kids on what to cook and to share with them the secret way to make the Bailey’s cake that she loves.

Mom’s Birthday is a mixed bag of emotions for me. On one hand I am so damn grateful and happy that I had her as my Mom, that we had so many great Birthdays. Yet on the other hand I am in a place that has no words, that there will be no more Birthday plotting. That all I have are memories. That my siblings and I don’t get to make new ones with her. I’m grateful for the time we did have, yet horribly envious of people 3 times my age whose Moms are still here.

She would only be 55 today. I know that she would look maybe 40. Be able to keep up with her teenage kids and their sports, have the energy for whatever dance/yoga/gym class she would be currently in while running the farm, family business and many other side projects.

I can honestly say my Mom was most loving, caring and strongest – in every sense of the word – woman I know.

Mom in her Bodybuilding Days

Mom in her Bodybuilding Days

Above: One of my most favorite pictures of her – just when she was getting big with her body building competitions.

Enjoy every Birthday with whomever you think of as Mom – blood or not.

~ J

Mom’s Birthday

November 12th is Mom’s birthday. I often find myself in the odd place of wanting to make sure the world knows of this day, when someone larger than life was born. But the rest of me wants to hide in my bed alone to try to forget how I’ll never write her a card that I drew, surprise her with a gift that she never expected or share a Bailey’s coffee to toast the day. It’s the epitome of bittersweet.

I often think of the many birthdays we did have with her. The way Jesse would cook her breakfast (he grew up watching Jeremy & I making her Birthday breakfast as a baby). The way the little kids would argue who got to take her coffee up to the bedroom (it was an unspoken rule that the Birthday Mom not get up till she wanted to) and sing her happy birthday and asking as they did every year ‘how old are you??? Wow that’s old!’ Sometimes she would have breakfast in bed, other times it would be in the kitchen or in the library with a fire going. She would almost always insist upon spending time with ALL of her kids, even if they were too young to understand the desert was not about them… It’s in those little ways that I often think of how different she was from most other mother’s I’ve known. Even the times when Dad was home from work, she rarely wanted to go out with just him for her birthday, it was with everyone and home cooked meal (that one of us kids put together). Even in the busier years of rental houses, school stuff and sport stuff for the kids, we always managed to make her smile even she was upset with one of the younger kids or a selfish teenage moment.

Every year I hope that the words will be easier. The memories are little less heart wrenching and that the silence that sets in will lift. This year wasn’t any different. My birthday I never bring up and don’t like to share it with people (I did let Reuben take me to dinner though), basically I hate it and feel like I shouldn’t have any recognition. Mom’s birthday though, on said is very hard for me, I think people should know.

This year was even a bit harder because this was the first time since her death that I didn’t call my Grandmother to try and cheer her up (I don’t know that it’s possible on your dead daughter’s birthday..but there you have it).  I still haven’t really wrapped my mind around that Grammy Gail is also gone along with the others (Mom & Uncle Rick)- compounded with my having Rosie (Mom’s dog that I gave to Grammy Gail).

Every birthday, everyday and every moment is a gift with you loved ones. Don’t watch them pass by for anything.