Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Remembering Birthdays

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.



Carol Waterman said...

Oh Patricia, I hadn’t yet read your blog today, but never forgot that March 15th was a very special day! So, I am posting what I drafted this morning in loving memory of your Mom, Ellena.

From an old Friend & Soulmate:

Today, I struggle to convey my thoughts & feelings. So, forgive me if I don’t worry about punctuation, fragments, etc.

Today, March 15th, would have been Ellena’s birthday! She would have received my birthday greetings sent in our “very special” card. This card was “special” to us, because we shared the same one for 32 years. On my birthday of March 6th, I could only keep it (card) for a couple of days. I had to ensure I got it posted so that Ellena got it for her special day.

Ellena was a sibling to my soul. Her soul saw mine. She knew and loved the deepest parts of me. Ellena is now gone from this earth. The Angels came and carried her to her eternal home. She will never be forgotten and forever remain in my heart!

Thank you dear Ellena for being such a special part of my life. Until our souls meet again, R.I.P.

Lovingly, Carol

Patricia, I care to believe that today and every day, Mom’s soul is watching over you. She sees you and smiles down on all her beloved family. May God Bless You Always!

P.S. If anyone wishes, you can read Ellena’s blog of March 1, 2012`about this card. “Carol and the Card”. Since she passed away, I’ve read everything since inception of “Ellena's Cocologie”. The posts brought tears & smiles and my heart swelled with so much emotion! I am so thankful for having had the chance to go back in time when.....

Carol Waterman said...

In March 2014, I sent Ellena this greeting in our special card. It refers to her name: ELLENA. This is how I knew and remembered her. I don't profess to be a poet. :-) 

E ver so beautiful, your face and your smile
L ove forever flowing from your heart
L aughter contagious to all those around you
E yes reflecting your pure inner spirit
N ever forgetting your long-time friends
A lways willing to listen and share life’s stories

You are so beautiful my dearest Friend!! You will forever remain special in my life!!

Trish said...

Oh dear Carol... what lovely words! It is hard to convey all the emotions we have for Ellena and you said it so beautifully. Knowing how you and Mom were connected made it so easy when I contacted you - it felt as though I also knew you albeit not as well but as family.

It makes me very happy to know that she had such a close soulmate friend in you. Thank you for being in her life.


Lucy said...

32 years! That's remarkable.

Indeed you were blessed in Ellena, Trish, but I think she was blessed in you too. I hope you enjoyed the roast!

Rouchswalwe said...

"a sibling to my soul" ... what a beautiful way to describe a friendship. I raise a glass of quality ale to you Carol, and to you Trish, and to the wonderful lady who brought us all together! Prost to Ellena!

Roderick Robinson said...

As you say:

"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.."

To which you may care to add your Mum's comment to one of my posts in which I talked about eating mussels. She said:

Tweezer-style is the only way I know to eat them. Here the large mounds of oysters are served in wide deep plates. Lots of space to manipulate the contents. $20. gets you 'all you can eat'. I pig out on three servings each in a different sauce.

PS "Hop" comment last post referred to photo showing one-legged RR.

Your mum used to specialise in short, often totally enigmatic comments, clearly intended to wind me up - but in the nicest possible way. This one was obviously too important to turn into a conundrum.

Sorry I'm a little late with the good wishes.

Trish said...

RR - I did notice mom's commenting and story telling style - it was often short and enigmatic. It's strange since she didn't speak that way. In fact her English was very good; she worked in English and French, spoke German (her mother tongue) and also Greek. Perhaps her written English still carried German grammar? ( I've been told that I do that when I write in French although all my schooling was French!)

I do enjoy it very much though and like the way it makes my brain wander off ...