Thursday, August 13, 2015

More Than a Date

by Beth Saadati

Some dates still wreck me. I’ve tried to convince myself that they’re nothing more than another day on a calendar page. But it doesn't work. 

Seventeen years ago I was given a new name, a treasured title. Mom. I tenderly cradled my newborn daughter, Jenna, in my arms. And, August 13th became my new favorite calendar date.

Jenna on her 13th birthday
I'd thought it would forever be a day of cake baking, candle blowing, and gift unwrapping. A day of rejoicing. A day of celebration.

Instead, on Monday I opened an e-mail and read a friend's thoughtful words: "You are in my fervent and constant prayers this week. I know it is bittersweet." 

I answered simply, my reply sincere.

“Thank you, Chris, for remembering and praying. Each birthday gets a tiny bit easier, but this is still the second hardest week of my year. I really wanted to see Jenna turn seventeen.”

As I finished typing the final line, something I’d heard about but hadn’t yet experienced happened. An instantaneous release of tears--a grief burst--came without warning. Then it stopped before I knew what had happened.

I’m not sure why typing that sentence triggered me. Probably because I long to see how Jenna would have blossomed—the beautiful young woman she surely would have become.

But it’s also because birthdays were a big deal to Jenna. My husband and I couldn’t afford polished, prepackaged party events, but Jenna didn’t care. With personal flair, she concocted her own.

Her ideas would start to simmer ten months before she turned a new number. Sometimes sooner. Sometimes immediately after her current celebration.

In my home yesterday, several of Jenna’s friends came and played Apples to Apples and Mafia, Four on a Couch and Taboo. Just like Jenna used to do.

As they engaged in friendly competition, I was surprised to find what I feared I'd lost—a backup dvd of Jenna’s funeral—after the original copy refused to work. For the first time since my daughter's death, I viewed part of the service.