My uncle would have been 53 today. It’s almost been 5 months since his death but that raw sadness of his absence is still just barely beneath the surface. The Facebook reminder of his approaching birthday arrived in my inbox like a ghost, his profile picture, a beaming face of his 3- or 4-year-old self beneath a cowboy hat, staring back as a stark reminder of a life cut short.
When we’re young, birthdays serve as a way to celebrate our arrival in this world, how far we’ve come, and somehow hold a space to enjoy possibilities and potential. As we get older they can lose their luster and may remind us of lost opportunities or leave us questioning what lies ahead. And today on this birthday, well, I’m just sad. I miss my uncle. I can’t help but think about all his other birthdays I missed and how I took him for granted. I can’t help but imagine that little boy on this day, 40 or 50 years ago and what he envisioned was his life to come. And I know it’s pointless but I can’t help but think about what this day looked like a year ago for Uncle Vic. What was he celebrating and excited about? What were his regrets and fears for the future? I knew he was struggling and had struggled on and off, but I always assumed he would get through it. He was gifted in so many ways that I guess I always thought that no matter the battle that had to be fought, he would somehow emerge still standing in the end. I know it’s foolish but I assumed he would be here today, and I would still have the choice to call him and wish him well on his special day.
Today’s Uncle Vic’s birthday and we’re all here to celebrate but he’s not. People have been posting on his Facebook wall all morning, kind of like those memorials of crosses and flowers you see left on the sides of roads and highways (it’s interesting how we gather where we can to share our loss with each other). But today I’m going to celebrate Uncle Vic’s birthday and the life he had. I’m going to accept the loss and acknowledge my sadness. We don’t all win our battles and whose left standing in the end is never a given. Today I will appreciate the time I did have with him and remind myself that this moment is all I have and that it’s never too late to start over.