Celebrating a Late Loved One's Birthday

Birthdays are a joyful time, a yearly opportunity to celebrate life. But when a loved one is no longer with us, that reminder can be painful. A day we once anticipated with great joy now triggers a sense of dread and the awakening of a broken heart. Is it possible to redeem that special day? Change it from a day of mourning to a day of joy?

The great King David was a man of war. He suffered many losses in his life, and yet he wrote this psalm of thanks to God. “You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladnessPsalm 30:11 CSB. If the Psalmist could say these words, surely we can as well!

My mother was the master of many things, but she had a notable brown thumb. A friend once called our house “death row for plants.” Whether they were doomed by too little attention or too much, the outcome was always the same - a pot full of dried dirt where some promising lifeform had once been. Then one day, a friend gave her an African violet for her birthday. Mom gushed over it, although she must have been already visualizing its demise. She sat it in the middle of the dining room table and gave her unsuspecting friend a tight hug.

We thought little about the African violet until one day, to everyone’s happy surprise, we realized it had survived - not just one month or six months but an entire year. Mom couldn’t believe it and neither could we. Soon there were African violets everywhere, on the window seat, over the sink, and unlike before, they all seemed to do well.

Mom left us less than a year ago. There was already plenty of “missing” going on among her nine children when we felt an additional punch to the gut when that certain day in August rolled around just a few weeks later. It hurt! But we wondered - could we find a way to put some hope back in that day? Deprive it of its power to unleash such sadness? We thought maybe we could.

It isn’t easy for nine people to agree on anything, but finally, we settled on what we would do. As the months pass and that next birthday comes into view, each of us will purchase, pot, and gift an African violet to someone we feel could use an encouraging lift. Each violet would include this prayer from Psalm 90:14 CSB, “Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.

Are you approaching what may be a difficult birthday for you? If so, why not search out a special way to honor your loved one? It doesn’t have to be a magnificent gesture or something that will break the bank. My family settled on sweet little plants with pink and violet flowers to remember and honor our mother. Here are some ideas to get your creativity flowing:

» Share your loved one’s story and pictures on Facebook, with a friend, or with a younger family member.

» Organize a workday for a senior in your neighborhood.

» Honor your loved one by giving a small scholarship in his or her name.

» Volunteer at a charity that would have significance to your loved one.

Whatever meaningful activity you chose, remember to do something for yourself as well. Include in your day some small indulgence and as much laughter as humanly possible. Above all, remember to lean into Jesus, whose comfort is like no other.

One more tip. If you know someone who is approaching a difficult birthday, send that person a quick, encouraging “Praying for You” Ecard. And, share this article with them through social media or by emailing them directly (see icons).

Check out these related articles:

When It’s Hard to Say (or Hear) “Praying for You”

When You Don’t Know What to Say or Do


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