Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Double Nickels and the Vigils of Life

July - it is the month of my birth and I share this distinction with two of our children. We usually turn the entire month on its ear and milk it for all it's worth - from the 1st (Erika's birthday), the 2nd (my birthday), the 4th (our nation's birthday), all the way through to the 27th which is our youngest son's birthday. The year Erika was born, she was the gift I had so dearly desired, a little girl, and we shared our pink rosebud studded birthday cake in the hospital. During the passing years we have gone on winery tours, vacations, had fireworks, large gatherings, and many more celebrations - but one thing has always held true - it's always been a spectacular time.

This year I turned 55, or as my husband calls it, double nickels. I've not ever stressed about the numbers or hidden my age, so this is no big deal for me - except that, as an OCD type person, I do enjoy having a 'pretty' number to call my own for an entire year. This birthday was different though. It's been a tough three years or so, financially speaking, and so the vacation or fireworks or even gifts didn't happen this year. The fact that my family and friends still made me feel special in countless ways was all I needed and then some! I'm actually just blessed to be here and will be celebrating my 7th cancer-versary later on this month as well.

Birthdays always remind me of my dearly departed mother, however. I think of her and the gifts she gave to us, her 6 children, in countless ways: faith, citizenship, patriotism, loyalty, and an exuberance for life, to name a few. She also instilled a quirky sense of humor in her children. We learned to laugh instead of crying and to look for a bright spot in our trials. For years it was our custom to peruse the greeting card aisles during the days counting down to special occasions. Being the frugal Germans that we are, we would find cards that fit the occasion and pass them to each other, sharing the sentiments of what those creative people at Hallmark can put into words better than us common folk. We rarely purchased the cards, opting instead for sentimental, handwritten letters from the heart. The humorous messages were 'borrowed' and then given back to the shelves at Walmart or Target.

I also always made it a point to wish my mother 'happy birthday' on my birthday because her labor of love on that sweltering German summer day - a breech birth, no less - gave me life. When my mother died of breast cancer at the tender age of 58, I remember sitting at her bedside for hours and pondering. We were privileged to have Mom stay home, in her own bed. Hospice came in and the vigil began. In so many ways the vigil of awaiting death is very similar to awaiting a new birth. The family gathers around, the signs of the impending event are closely monitored, and the love is tangible in the room. Our priest miraculously appeared at just the right moment for a final family rosary. Life ebbs and flows. As one person labors to bring forth new life, another labors to pass into Eternity. Doctors and nurses can only do so much, can only predict so much, but the ultimate minute of arrival or departure is God's alone. And so we are left to wait.

End of life or beginning of life - we wait. Granny and Lukas
This year's birthday has been touched in a similar fashion. My daughter-in-law's grandmother is ailing. As our grandchildren have been saying, 'the angels are close because she is getting ready for Heaven'. We are, once again experiencing the vigil. The doctors and nurses make their predictions and yet - she is hanging on, taking her own sweet time until God calls her home. This woman, who I have come to know during our son's 7 year marriage to his wife, is largely responsible for forming the faith of her granddaughter. In a poignant post on Facebook, I read, 'I have been at the hospital saying the Rosary with Granny. Thank you, Granny, for teaching me the Rosary'. This Matriarch of the family is drawing those she loves close to her. Through her they are finding the Grace to let her go. She will be missed but has given so much whilst she was among her loved ones. My gratitude goes out to her for her help in forming the perfect mate for our son and a godly mother for our grandchildren.

And so it goes...the vigils for birth, the counting of birthdays and the vigils for death will all continue to be with us until the End of Time. And as we await our time or The Time we mark off the signs and tick down the hours, minutes, and seconds - awaiting the birth for which we came to this earth to begin with. We seek our rebirth into His Heavenly Home. May we come rejoicing - joyfully and well prepared!

God bless you, Granny H! And may Jesus welcome you with open arms!

Post Script:
Minutes after I wrote this tribute, my daughter-in-law's grandmother passed from this life onto the next. She wrote this on her wall with a link to my post:

"The vigil is over....she took advantage of St. Elizabeth's (the peacemaker) feast day and went home with her Guardian Angel tonight. She may have been a little OCD that way, too! ; ) We'll miss you, Granny!"