butterfly birthday

let flowers bloom. my birthday Adenium

Today is my birthday.  I’m 32.

In general, the years are speeding up as I age, yet this one has felt long.  I can’t remember my birthday from last year very well, other than I spent it away from my mother who was in Houston, and was feeling the special flavor of unease you feel when separated from a sick loved-one. So very much has changed since then.

I have struggled with grief and despair this week, but this birthday seems particularly blessed.  I have been touched by unusually thoughtful gifts and expressions of love.

  • my coworkers pulled together money to purchase a piece of art that was for sale at the Cancer Center, simply because they noticed I would look at it every day and smile
  • a woman I deeply enjoy but have never had the opportunity to know well gave me an exotic plant crowned with beautiful pink flowers. Her husband nurtured this plant from seed for years in his greenhouse.
  • a woman I discharged to hospice months ago, fully expecting her to pass away soon, walked into the Cancer Center and gave me a huge hug, some small gifts, and a card covered with butterflies.
  • and more…

I have often felt awkward on my birthday- uncomfortable with the attention and the unilateral gift-giving.  This year I feel profound loss, yet an even greater gratitude for what I do have. Every card, gift, text message and embrace has been meaningful and beautiful.  I am part of a huge network of love, with lacy fingers that envelop the globe.  No, I don’t deserve it, but in life we get both less and more than we deserve. I’m 32, and way overdue to learn to accept a love that makes me shudder with its magnitude.

My friend told me “Its your butterfly birthday!” And she is right.  Grief is transformative. Our losses can bring us to the brink of madness, and at the same time blast apart our shell, open our hearts, let the light in.  Grief rolls in like a 10 armed Hindu goddess that can destroy the universe with a flick of a wrist and maniacal smile, yet if you don’t go down in the fiery blaze she’ll also take away that which limits you.

I wish we could keep our loved ones by our side forever, but the universe is built on death and destruction.  Still, flowers bloom in the ashes, babies are birthed in pain and blood, the worm is torn apart to become a winged thing of beauty.  This is the mysterious, wonderful, terrible, and awesome way of the world.

11 thoughts on “butterfly birthday

  1. Dawn Shepler

    Happy Birthday! And Kali Ma played a role in my life change as well, glad to see her again! This is once again a beautiful piece of writing and soul work. Blessings to you.

  2. Kathy

    Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a nice day and that people made it unexpectedly special for you. The expressions of love you received are wonderful. The flower is truly beautiful. Tomorrow is my birthday (43), the fourth that I will “celebrate” without my mom. Since I work from home and my husband works second shift, it will be just a regular day for me, and that’s ok. Take care.

  3. Laura Demund-Ziemba

    Happy Birthday to you..a few days late…yes your Butterfly Birthday seems very appropriate.Grief is transformative..I am sorry you lost your Mom…you are around the age of my girls…and I tell you the worst thing about being sick was seeing it reflected back in their eyes..I count my blessings everyday…I look forward to getting glimpses of her through your writing..Peace and Love to you…

  4. Heart To Harp

    It takes such courage to walk thru the fires of grief and transformation, and trust that life will flower from the ashes while being consumed by the flames. I salute your courage!!!!

  5. Bruce Korth

    Thank you for such a wonderful history of what has transpired with Janelle and your family.

    I went steady with your mother in her freshman through to her junior year in high school…..Never forgot her….Never…

    The last time I saw your mother was @ Shopko in Mankato, and you were with her.

    You were about 2 years old.

    I just found out 3 weeks ago that your mother passed away……

    Called Doris and gave her my condolences.

    Wishing you, John and Doris the Best!

    Bruce Korth

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      I heard stories about you! Will send an email later. Thanks for visiting, and be sure to check out Mom’s Caring Bridge (linked on my page). You will appreciate hearing her “voice” through her lymphoma journey. If you are still in MN, her memorial service is on June 9th.

  6. Bruce Korth

    Can’t make the Memorial Service in Mpls. Will be in MN later this summer and will stop by LaSalle to visit your mom.
    You and your family have a wonderful trip to MN.

    Warm Regards



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