Today is Ellena's birthday.
She would have been 81 years young.
The first thing I did this morning was to honour her by lighting a bees wax candle in the candle holder she kept on her living room table. A time dedicated to Mom where I can talk to her in my head, gather my thoughts, sip on my tea and begin to write this post.
I've basically replicated her 'look' by putting her decorative plate, Greek worry beads. and candle holder on my family room table. This way she's always close to me and a constant memory trigger of the times we've sat around her table. Mom in her blue chair and me on the sofa, talking, laughing, watching tv and knitting together.
Many of us think of the Ides of March when March 15th is mentioned. It does carry a negative betrayal vibe since it's the day Julius Ceasar was betrayed and assassinated but there is someone else who also shares this birth date - St Nicholaus!! He's known for his role in bringing about miracles and for bestowing gifts which eventually inspired the modern day Santa Claus. Wouldn't you know it! Mom's favourite time of the year was Christmas. December was filled with tradition beginning with the Adventskranz (Advent Wreath) in early December; followed by the purchase of a real tree that was later decorated with candles instead of electrical lights; snack plates filled with nuts, candies, german cookies and marzipan were spread out throughout the house; and her angels came out to be proudly displayed. It culminated with the massive Christmas eve sauerkraut and spaetzle meal followed by goose on Christmas day. We knew what to expect and looked forward to it every single year. I won't elaborate any more because Christmas deserves a post of its own!
My sister and I have been dreading this day because it's such an important date. It's difficult enough to loose a loved one and 'special' dates make it that much harder. Just thinking about it fills me with sadness. Saying happy birthday doesn't feel appropriate so I'll stick to holding her in my thoughts the whole day.
We always looked forward to celebrating Mom's birthday and this time there was nothing to plan for. No thoughtful birthday present to enjoy giving, no special cake to eat or candles to blow out, no phone or skype call, and no visit to the Laurentians. Nothing to physically celebrate with her. All I can do is hold onto memories and acknowledge her through my own actions/activities.
I've decided to celebrate with my family. We're having diner together tonight (Their dad and I are separated and my son now has his own place) followed by the launch of a few flying lanterns over Lake Ontario. We'll be eating the last piglet roast my mom had in her freezer and then we'll bundle our love and best wishes into these lanterns and release them to the skies. Maybe she will sense or feel our energy and maybe not. I'm not sure where I stand on this subject but a big part of me wants to believe that her soul will spot us and smile down at us - perhaps giggling and telling us to not be so sad. It would have been nice to do this together with my sister's family and my brother but unfortunately I live 6 hours away from them.
My sister will have a tougher day because her youngest son was born on the same date as Mom. Her day will be filled with joy when celebrating Hayden's special day and sadness when thinking about Mom. Tanya and I will most likely spend some time on skype talking about Mom, sharing nice memories and shedding a few tears. It's all good though ... I really don't mind the tears since they release the sadness and acknowledge my love for her.
Now to the subject of this post ... birthdays and another story about Ellena ...
Ellena was THE BEST when it came to birthdays. Family and friends always received a birthday card on or prior to their birthdays.
Mom kept track of birthdays with her little red 'birthday' book which she kept on her hutch (right side of the hutch pictured here). Each set of facing pages covered a week and the book was always open on the page of the next upcoming birthday(s). She used this smooth egg shaped stone, which sat on a silver ring, as her paper weight to keep the book's pages open. Ellena diligently logged family's and friends' birthdays and also made sure to update her entries when someone passed away. Not a single birthday was forgotten and the cards always arrived on time.
Mom would either buy cards or make them herself. She was always prepared and had one desk drawer dedicated to cards and envelopes! She also collected quotes throughout the years and would always write something thoughtful inside the card. It was a delight to receive a card from Mom and I always looked forward to seeing what special words she'd left for me.
Mom had a special birthday tradition with one of her friends - they had been sending each other the same card since 1988! (card pictured here). Tanya and I came across it while Mom was in the hospital and didn't understand the meaning of it until I called Carol to let her know that Mom had passed away.
This card was packed, I mean packed with notes and pages that had been sent back and forth at each birthday! Logistically placed scotch tape held everything together. Carol and Mom seldom saw each other but their friendship was deep, caring and loving. They kept this friendship alive through their birthdays. The fact that it's been travelling back and forth for so long gives it a life of its own. I kept the card for a few weeks because I wanted to leaf through it but I never read all the notes since I felt it was something between Carol and Mom. Touching the pages and unfolding/refolding them was soothing, as if I were touching something sacred where I could feel the friendship and absorb the thoughtfulness and love that had been exchanged for the last 28 years. The card was sent back to Carol and I have to admit that it saddened me to let it go of it but I knew that it was not mine to keep.
Mom's thoughtfulness and discipline (cards always arrived on time) made family and friends feel special. It wasn't just a birthday wish written on a facebook wall or a quick call. It was a good old fashioned birthday greeting that required effort and thoughtfulness. It was manually purchased or made, inscribed with personalized thoughtful words, hand delivered to the post office, and delivered to its destination by our postal carriers. It's an ancient tradition considering how everything is quick and/or electronic these days.
As with everything that Mom did, there was attention to detail and that little extra mile that made all the difference. Her thoughtfulness was reciprocated and Mom always received cards on her birthday. She appreciated thoughtfulness and hand made cards just as much as she enjoyed being the 'giver'. She kept some of the cards we made as children or sent her as adults and put them in separate small binders for each of her children. Mementos she treasures were respectfully saved and cherished. I'm so happy that she kept all these treasures because it has given me a lot of delight as I have been slowly going through her possessions. She made me feel special when she was alive and that feeling remains as I see how she treasured some of the items I gave her.
"Love begins at home. It is not how much we do but how much love we put in that action". Until we meet again ... thinking of you Mom on your special day.