Go on…Celebrate!

She would wake before dawn to ensure that everything was *perfect* for our special day. Streamers, balloons, homemade signs in her signature left-handed script would adorn the walls of the family dining room. It was pure magic because she made it that way – our birthday – the one day of the year when she insisted that we felt like royalty!

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As I ponder my first birthday without her light-filled presence, I find myself reflecting back on the many happy memories of our family birthdays celebrated so lovingly under her guidance. Thanks to my mom’s unselfish ways and desire to put others before self, she went above and beyond on birthdays. I never really thought about it before today but as I think back, I realize how much work that must have been for her – a busy wife, mom and nurse of 3 growing children. With such a full life she somehow managed to bake the bunny and sports cakes (or snowman cake with coconut frosting for me), decorate the dining room and select the perfect presents.

This precious gift is something not to be taken for granted and is actually something to be held in high esteem for others to follow. My beautiful mom gave my siblings and me such wonderful birthday memories, filled with unconditional love. Candy cane parties for me, football parties for Joe and swimming parties for Liz. One year, she and her sister Barbara (hair up in tight curlers bound by a kerchief) held my sister’s party in our garage on a hot August day – but she still made it fun! There is no greater gift than to receive one overflowing with love – this is what mom did and continued to do for our spouses and children. She endeared our families to her because of the love she continuously poured out. This was especially true on one of our birthdays.

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As I woke early this morning, it was strange not to have a lunch date planned with her, as we’ve done for many years. She would arrive at my house with “side-gifts” and then the special gift. We’d drink wine, and enjoy a leisurely pre-Christmas/birthday lunch together – something we both enjoyed. Of course she would call early in the morning to sing. Not hearing her voice today was like taking away a precious gem I’ve come to cherish, someone so beloved that her absence leaves an empty place in my heart which cannot be filled by anyone.

Thankfully, my beloved dad called early and filled my heart with joy! He continues to carry on in mom’s name for all of us and together they make the perfect pair, with mom spreading her love from heaven. My lovely husband and children filled my day with love and I could not be more grateful. We drove into Boston to watch Emma dance in her final Christmas Celtic Sojourn, a show that mom loved to attend and enjoy the wonderful music, inspiring poetry and lively dancing.  The day ended with dinner in Boston after the show and Emma receiving news that she had been accepted to my alma mater Loyola University and awarded the Presidential Scholarship. I cried thinking how proud mom would be of Emma and this was confirmed when we called dad to tell him the news. “She is helping us from heaven.” he said

While this first birthday without her was painful on many levels, it was also filled with a little joy because I received the love of my beautiful family and many precious friends. That is the way mom would want it. Thanks to her example, Emma had gotten up early to decorate the dining room table and Gracie sent me a Starbucks gift card via email on the way to her last exam – the girls are carrying on Nona’s example of selfless giving. May we all try to do this in the days to come as we approach the birth of our Saviour. Give – as she did – even when don’t feel like it. The result will make a difference to all those around us and the memories will last a lifetime.

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