I knew I wanted to gather some old friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. Four dear friends (and three of their husbands and kids) joined my family at my lake house for the first weekend of May. They brought gifts, memories, and all the food we needed to feed our party of 23 people.
Jaclyn, Sarah, Katie, and Bekah hadn’t all met before, but I have histories with them that span decades, literally. Some of our stories have overlapped, but I knew this was the right group of people to gather together.
Starting in 1990, Katie was my next-door-neighbor-turned-best-friend for all of middle and high school and we remain friends across the state who wish we were neighbors. Bekah and I also were friends in middle and high school. We swam together, she introduced me to country music, and we continue to gather at Christmastime and other times we have extra time when we’re visiting my mom in Louisville. (Fun side note: I encouraged her and her now-husband to date, so they blame me and thank me in the same breath. I’ve actually known her husband Barrett longer than anyone who was at my lake house that weekend!)
Jaclyn and I met in college and had intersecting friends starting in the fall of 1998. We actually got closer after college, got married the same summer, walked through infertility and all the early days of motherhood literally together, and now miss each other if we go too many days without hanging out. Our husbands and kids are tight too. Sarah walked into our church in May 2009, pregnant with Davey who would become my Ben’s first friend, and we’ve basically been friends since. She’s since moved four hours away, but we have an ongoing, never-ending text conversation that brings me so much joy.
Jaclyn and Katie put together a book of blessings and memories from all kinds of people in my life. Jaclyn gave me other goodies and helped organize the whole weekend. Sarah gave me a felt letter board with a sweet message already displayed. (The quote is a reference from a book about friendship by Melanie Shankle that Jaclyn, Sarah, and I like to quote to each other.) Katie made me a T-shaped shelf that’s already hanging on my wall. Bekah bought my dinner when us girls went out for Mexican food one of the night’s together.
Our boys fished and caught enough bluegill and catfish to feed us lunch on Sunday. The older girls made friendship bracelets, had a sleepover in the basement one night, and helped us keep track of the little girls. We went on some boat rides, laughed at memories, told back stories, and ate well.
My soul was so filled with these
new memories with old friends.
The celebrating continued on Monday when some of my friends I know from my kids’ school gathered for breakfast together. It was such a sweet way to begin the new week celebrating some more. Forty certainly had me reflective and craving all the quality time with people I love.
I wanted to celebrate with my people, but God knew I would need to be filled to the brim with love and support as the week continued. God saw beyond my 40th birthday.
My dad went into cardiac arrest the evening of May 7 – four days after I turned 40, one day after Cate turned 12, and five days before Mother’s Day. He passed away about 35 hours later, on Thursday, May 9. (Here’s his obituary.)
He had been without oxygen three different times – for an undetermined amount of time when he went into cardiac arrest, on the way to the hospital in the ambulance, and again in the emergency room. His body never recovered and I watched him stop breathing while hooked to a ventilator and lots of medicines in an Indianapolis hospital.
I haven’t written much about my dad here because our relationship was complicated. For years, I’ve grieved not having the kind of relationship I wish we had. My dad and how I’ve long longed for his approval and attention were the subjects of conversations in counseling. I’d forgiven him and tried to share my life with him, even from a distance.
Regardless of the complications, he was my dad. Right after I was filled from my birthday, I found myself unexpectedly grieving. As Dad was unresponsive in the hospital bed, I learned things about his life in Indianapolis I didn’t know. Even my grief has been complicated and in the days since his death, I’ve found myself beneath a cloud of emotions.
With three kids, the end of the school year, and my everyday life here, I have been able to step out from beneath the cloud, but then when I’m not distracted anymore, it’s still there. Grief is tricky. And I’m so grateful I was filled to the brim with love and support before I had to begin to navigate my dad’s death.
I have questions I wish I could ask him. I want to hold onto hope for a little longer. I remember him as an innovative educator who created an environment at an elementary school for most of my childhood and then a middle school just a little farther down the road that teachers, parents, and students loved. He excelled in his profession.
Three of the friends who gathered at my lake house knew my dad. We had actually talked about some childhood memories involving him just days before he died. Looking back even a couple of weeks, God was preparing me. I didn’t realize it then, obviously, but, for as unexpected as the timing was, I also found comfort in his death being sandwiched between so much life.