She'll be 9 tomorrow. It's her birthday, and she's turning 9. To be honest, I don't really remember her turning 8. The entire year was a blur and birthdays are a tough subject in our house anyway. We did nothing last year for her birthday. Seriously, nothing. Well, there was one exception. Another Mom, and a woman who has become a sort of savior friend, made her a cake. She made MY daughter a birthday cake. I vaguely remember her asking if she could do something, but I don't ever remember answering the question. But, when that day came I was lighting a candle on the most perfect birthday cake for a panda-loving princess. My friend had just done it. She didn't need my answer to know what needed to be done. She took over when I couldn't be the Mom. I've only recently realized the value in that. I noticed that I'm learning to be a better mother from the women around me, just as I did before.
Another very special woman in my life suffered her own tragedy the same year our family was faced with the death of our son, Easton. Our stories are unique, and sometimes our grieving processes couldn't be any different. But, we learn from one another. We share pain and progress. We cry and laugh at how far we've come and how far we have left to go. One of the most amazing things I've taken from this woman is her ability to continue celebrating life. We agree that neither of us does things the "right" way. We simply do what we can do. She works tirelessly to make special occasions like birthdays and holidays as special as they've always been. This concept was completely foreign to me, and I've had to take a chapter from HER strength book in order to see the beauty in that. I've seen that celebrations don't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean we've moved on and aren't looking back. It's simply another way we put our feet on the ground and keep walking, together. I'm not saying this is any easier for me than it was a year ago, but I'm grateful to her for leading by example and for never making me feel as though I was doing it "wrong".
This week I've spent most of my free hours baking ridiculously indulgent birthday treats for my daughter to take to school. I took a cue from my friend who'd made the special cake last year and decided that I was going to try to make this birthday memorable, but this time with my own hands. She helped me with the details of creating the perfect panda treats, but more than that she showed me that being present in this moment for this child didn't mean that I was forgetting the one who will never again blow out the candles. And I didn't have to do it on her time. She just waited. She was just there when I needed her to be there, teaching me to make the cookies, but more importantly teaching me to remember that this opportunity still exists for myself and this child. And I love her for that.
I didn't make them because I thought my dauther had to have them. I made them because I can. Because I've been gifted this moment. I get to watch her turn 9. I get to see her move on from her 8-year-old life for the best reason, because she's 9. That's a gift, and I know it. I had no idea what to expect on the day I first met that fiesty little human. She came into the world with an opinion, and she continues to share it today. I don't assume I'll be given the opportunity to see her drive a car, or go on a date. I don't assume I'll see her turn 30, or 40, or 50. Those days aren't guarantees. Those moments aren't mine to claim. But what I know in this moment right now, is that she is silly and witty. She is talented and beautiful. She has more freckles this year than last. And she's 9. And I'm here to see all of it. I won't take that for granted.