Well I've had a wonderful birthday weekend (I love that, stretching your birthday out into an entire weekend or week. We used to tease my grandpa that he could somehow make his birthday last a whole month). Today I had to face the music and return to work. We are thoroughly understaffed, so there was no chance of getting the day off, but it was ok.
Actually, it was very sobering.
Today's New Activity: Birthday Perspective
Today was the first day back to work for a coworker who'd been on family leave. During that time (the day after Mother's Day), this young woman's mother passed away after having spent the past year in and out of the hospital. As unpleasant as it was to spend 9 hours at my job on my birthday, that unpleasantness paled in comparison to what my coworker was going through...the new reality she'd be coming to terms with, bit by bit, for some time to come no doubt. The brevity of life message rang loud and clear to me on this day.
My coworker was doing fairly well, considering, but I know she's probably still somewhat in shock. Also, she still has family in town, which is helping her feel connected and keeping her from ruminating on her loss (she shared this). She is bound to have some very rough moments in the days and months and years to come. I wish I knew her just a little bit better so that I felt I could have more to offer in friendship, but listening to somebody talk through these stages is certainly a way to get to know a person. It can be difficult to know how to talk with people who've just lost a love one. It can feel like a tainted, dirty secret of a subject, and it can feel like bringing it up with the mourning, emotionally fragile survivor might make something break. But in my experience, just to have the chance to talk and know that there's a person out there who can bear to hear it can be a relief. Sometimes it's EASIER to talk to quasi-strangers who are far enough from the situation themselves, emotionally.
Listening to my coworker (I'll call her Miriam) talk, watching her eyes well up with tears, I couldn't help but get emotional myself. I was trying to fathom what it would be like to lose somebody as close as your mother and this point in life (she's my age or even a little younger). And I hate to wax sentimental on my birthday (so trite), I have to say it gave me the perspective that one always hopes to have gained in the course of experiencing another year of life. I'd say it was a beautiful gift.
to be continued...