On this scorching hot, blue skied day, I raised an ice cream cone skyward in a celebratory toast, marking my father's birthday, the same way he and I celebrated just about everything - with a scoop or two. From the time I was a little girl, we made a habit of sneaking away for ice cream - butter pecan for him and peanut butter and chocolate for me. It was always our thing.
In high school, my shift at the local Dairy Queen often ended with a sweet treat that I'd take home for my Dad, who grinned like a Cheshire cat when I walked in the door. In my college years and beyond, every visit home included a happy pilgrimage to Baskin Robbins. And after my kids came along, their grandfather and I welcomed them into our circle of tradition and its significance grew even more. To this day, a cold, creamy scoop still brings a swell of fond memories made over a lifetime.
My Dad is gone now, but in his absence this tradition takes on new importance. It honors him and the time we had together. It makes me feel like I can do something instead of sitting idly in loss that hits a little harder on special days like this. It keeps memories of him alive for my sons. Somehow this small act of continuing a long-standing tradition eases the missing of him because it reminds me that, although he is gone, I am blessed to have had his strong, optimistic, fun-loving presence in my life for as long as I did. And continuing our tradition has turned out to be a powerful healer.
Some of you are coming up on anniversaries of special days without the one you love, the one you wish was there to celebrate with you. In the absence of that person, life feels off balance and it's hard to know how to approach these special occasions, especially in that difficult first year. I am here to tell you the anticipation and the dreading of those firsts is usually worse than the actual day. No matter where you are in the grieving and healing process, it helps many of us to mark those days in a way that brings back memories of good times you spent together. Keeping your traditions alive keeps your loved one alive in you, and remembered in an active way. And I hope it will bring you the same soothing comfort it brings me.
With a cone raised high, here's to you, Daddy-O, and to all who have gone on to Life beyond life. Happy birthday! Love lives on!