I turn 46 tomorrow.
46 is not a banner-year birthday marked by surprise parties, substantial jewelry pieces, or trips to Cancun. Mine will kick-off while I'm working at the snack bar at the high school. Oh, it does tip the scale to my being closer to 50 than 40, so there's that.
It may be be kind of a "blah" birthday, but 46 is significant to me.
It's the age my mother was when she died. Back then, in all of my 18 year old wisdom, I convinced myself that she had led a full life. Hadn't she had a chance to get married, have kids, start her own business, and nurture deep friendships? I used that reasoning to console myself that she wasn't missing out. As I got older, it became clear to me just how young 46 really was. I still feel almost as young inside as I did right out of college even though I'm tired a lot and the mirror sometimes shows me a face I don't recognize.
When I gave birth Jack and Margaret, I found myself thinking, "So, if I die at 46, will they remember me? I could calculate that they would would be turning 15 and 17 this year, so I decided, "Of course they would!"
Oh, you didn't know that when your mom or dad dies young you live your life imagining and even assuming that you will too? Statistically, it's not probable at all, but still we do it.
My brother hit 46 a few years ago. I wasn't sure whether, as a man, he would have identified as closely with the possibility of an early death for himself at age 46. He did. My sister lived through it last year, and in a way it seemed as if her training herself as an elite athlete, running toward health and strength, was also her running from the specter of death bearing down on her. She and I both celebrated in March when she made it out of that year and became 47, opening up the possibility of living abundantly years and likely even decades longer than our mother did.
I have complicated feelings about my own journey.
Outliving my son Jack, who died at only 12, has been excruciating. But because children are supposed to outlive their parents, maybe I shouldn't feel as conflicted as I do about aging past my own mom. It just makes me sad. I hope to be able to experience grandchildren someday, something she missed out on, and continue to grow as a woman personally, spiritually, and professionally. And although my longing is to be in heaven with Jack, I have important reasons to keep living and growing here on earth for as long as I'm able, as did she.
Weirdest of all, my 46th year is shaping up to be one of significant change for me, the likes of which I could not have anticipated. I will have to learn to adapt and grow in ways that my mom didn't have to, or didn't get to, depending on how you look at it.
Because 46 was far too young to die.