Sunday, May 03, 2015

Laila's fourth birthday

Every year since Laila's death the weeks leading up to her birthday are gloomy and I am weepy and sad.  My birthday comes and I try to be happy for the kids sake but I usually just have no real desire to celebrate my birthday.  Mike and I even discussed celebrating my birthday on my half birthday so that it wasn't so close to Laila's birthday.  We always choose a service project to do as a family and then spend that day together as a family.  We get the kids out of school and spend the whole day just being together.  The first two years resulted in huge fights between me and Mike.  Something you learn when you go through such an emotional event is how to let others grieve in their own way and not to put expectations on the other person to grieve in the way you do.  Mike is such a different person than I am and we have had to learn to support each other and compromise when it comes to our individual needs with grieving Laila's death.  I think we've figured it out for the most part and last year and this year were argument free.  The arguing and the emotions of the day often make it hard for me to feel a sense of satisfaction and I often feel such a let down when it's all over.  

This year was different.  I was uncertain about how I would feel this year.  I knew I would not be able to visit her grave and I had not felt a strong impression about a service project.  As time approached Mike and I discussed our service ideas in detail and decided that we would once again invite anyone that wanted to participate to do so.  

 We wanted to choose a service that the boys could have fun with this year and so we decided that we would do a lot of fun little acts of service throughout the two weeks leading up to her birthday.  It was so much fun!  We made get well packages, put smiley faces on windshields in the Target parking lot, took donuts to friends, and gave our neighbors Otter Pops with a note saying, "We think you 'Otter' know that we are happy you are our neighbors!  The boys took a fun gift into their teachers and Mike and I did a few service things for the boys since they were taking state testing at school.  We took a journal to a teenager who is struggling and passed out roses to strangers at a park.  

Friends and family took on our challenge and served as well.  I had people tell me about their experiences and the joy that it brought to them to serve.  My heart felt so happy!  I feel like it was our gift to Laila but also her gift to me.  If I ever started to feel gloomy I would think about all the people who were being served and all the happiness that was being spread and I would feel better.  This year was so much different than the previous years and by the time her birthday came I felt it didn't matter if the details didn't happen exactly the way I planned.  It was a quiet, happy day.  

We woke up and found that our yard had been decorated for Laila's birthady!

 Friends surprised us with a sidewallk chalk message!
 We went to a park and the kids swam in the water.  I wasn't anticipating that we would swim so they all got sandy and wet in their regular clothes but they had fun and didn't seem to mind too much that they were wet on the ride home.  Once we got home we had dinner and then went to the backyard to release our balloons.  In Colorado there was always enough wind to make our balloons disappear quickly and it's kind of a let down.  This year there was hardly any wind.  We wanted to fly kites this year instead of release balloons but it isn't very windy here in Tennessee so we had to give up on that idea and do the balloons instead.  It ended up being great though because the wind was so calm that we all laid on the grass and watched our balloons slowly float away.  We probably laid on the grass for a good ten minutes watching the balloons as they turned into little colorful spots in the sky.  They were so slow that I actually had success this year getting some pictures of our balloons.

 We ended the day with cake and ice cream.  It was a simple cake and didn't take too much time.  This year I didn't even really decorate with a garland or anything.  Just cake and ice cream.  It was simple.

I wish I could describe how thankful and happy I feel with all the service that was performed this week.  My desire was to spread happiness and bring hope to people.  I feel like I've changed in so many ways in the last four years.  I could write a book full of lessons I've learned.  One thing is that service is powerful.  It allows us to feel happiness and compassion.  It doesn't solve our problems and it doesn't take all the pain away but it does soften the blow .  It allows us to feel gratitude and focus more on what we have rather than what we lack.  I hope that everyone that participated in our service for Laila was able to feel a change in them this week and a satisfaction knowing that in a small (or big) way, they influenced someone's life and I hope that if you didn't serve with us this year, you will consider participate next year.

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