Monday, October 5, 2015

46

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.

It's weird.

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.

34 comments:

Don't know yet said...

Oh how I can relate to this...just substitute in 33 for 46 and dad for mom. I lost my dad when I was 6 and he was 33. My mother was 26 when she became a widow with 2 small children. I often thought about the what if's as I passed 26 and then 33. And this year was particularly hard as my oldest son - a father of 2 - turned 33 on his birthday. The wave and range of emotions are almost paralyzing. But I fight to remind myself that all we have is the moment we are in...and how important it is to cherish each day that we are given...and to focus as much as possible on what is real, true, and beautiful in this world.

Thank you for sharing your story with us...and wishing you a beautiful birthday full of rich blessings.

xoxox,
Rhonda

Meg said...

Yes, 46 is much too young to die. I hope the changes are all positive. The "6" of each decade is hard because you are no longer in your early "40s" or whichever decade it is. Happy birthday and all the best for your next year.

LostRoses said...

My sisters and I also had that internal clock ticking - will we make it to 48, the year our mother died, leaving seven children behind? Yes, we did, and now we are "old ladies" but the grief we felt at her passing can still pierce sharply, as it does everytime I read about your Jack. The sorrow. Thanks for this post.

jjnzdr said...

I am in the year that my father was when he died. As each of my siblings live, then surpass, that year we all realize how much he has missed. This year its me. My father was 54. Anytime I hear of anyone who dies past 54 I do the math. How many more years did they have than my father? When he died he was so sick that I didn't realize how young her was. Now I know.

Anonymous said...

My great-grandmother (whom I never met) died at 36, and that age was like a ticking time bomb to her daughter, my grandmother. I know she exhaled deeply when the calendar flipped to her 37th year.

You have immense purpose and value in this life. May God strengthen you and equip you for the race you will run this year. Blessings and peace for a beautiful birthday filled with reminders of how very loved you are.

Terri Jackson said...

Your mom was so beautiful, I am sorry you lost her so young. My dad died when he was not quite 55, I was 13. I am turning 54 this December and your words touched me. I have been thinking about him so much, how much I would have like to have known him better. How young he was, I wonder what his dreams were.

Wishing you a beautiful day, it is bittersweet I find - missing our children gone too soon - delighting in the smile of the surviving one.

I hope that you have cake, and chocolate. Peace to you my friend.

Anonymous said...

I will be 56 tomorrow! I can say that looking back on 46 seems like yesterday and that I have not aged another 10 years!! I have not had a loss like you to measure my age against but I use memories of what I remember of my parents at my age - they seemed so old but now, not so much!! I like your philosophy and wish you the best day tomorrow - happy shared birthday.

Anonymous said...

It truly is a hurdle you do not realize at the time. My Dad died at 53 and my mother was a 50. I really miss my Dad and mourn for all the advice and opportunities we will never share. It was made doubly bad when my brother died 9 years later at 38. My darling nieces at 9 and 13 had so many less memories of their Dad. I had my Dad for 30 years and we shared graduation, walking me down the aisle and meeting my children. My nieces don't even have those memories.

I held my breath as y husband turned 53 and later when I did. We try to appreciate living in the moment and thanking God for that moment.

julie gardner said...

I turned 47 today and this has me thinking deeply.
And feeling grateful. And glad to have been loved so well for this long.
XO

owlfan said...

My brother died at 28 and my mom's brother also died at 28. In each case it was an accident. I know I will be holding my breath as my boys go through that age. I still have 9 and 12 years til then.
My dad took early retirement at 55, just as I graduated from college, because his dad had died in his late 50s and he hadn't gotten to enjoy retirement. He made it almost to 73, outliving both his dad and both brothers. Though still too young for my tastes.

Anonymous said...

My husband went through the same thing at 36. His dad died at 36, and it was just when my husband was entering middle school. Can't even imagine.

I'd like to respond to the beginning of your essay with a humorous story it brought to mind (somehow I always have to go to humor. . .defense mechanism?).

When I turned 41, my brother said, "You're close to 50!"

My indignant reply, "Umm, not exactly. I am closer to 40 than to 50."

"No you're not. You'll never be 40 again. It's unattainable. You've got a good chance of reaching 50. You're closer to 50, without a doubt."

"Oh, brother." (eye roll) :-)

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I remember my mom talking about living past 50 (when her parents died). As a young 20something I really didn't understand just how much this ties in with identity. For me it's now how old my mom was when she got cancer. Ten years from now... Love you Anna!

barb said...

My mom died when she was 66. I am now 69 but I spent years wondering if I too would die when I was 66. It has been 23 years and I still miss her as if it were yesterday. I miss your mom almost as much. Neither of them were here long enough!

Pam Priester said...

You are a spring chicken, honey! Love this post. Enjoy your day.....I forgot that my newly minted 18 year old will share it with you. The way the Lord continues to EQUIP you and GROW you for His Glory is an inspiration and takes my breath away!! <3

Flo said...

Dear Anna,
I do not have the same story in my family, but your words are thoughtful and inspiring for anyone. You have a way of sharing things, it's just as if you opened your heart to us.
I wish you the happiest birthday, full of love and blessings.

RuthAnne@ mayfairecottage said...

I loved seeing this picture of your mother--that's how I remember her, with flowers and a big smile.

GG said...

My first husband died eight years ago, when he was 46. I was 44 then, and when I turned 47, I had the hardest time reconciling that I was older than he'd ever get to be.

Anonymous said...

Like others, I can relate. My grandfather, whom I never knew, died at 40. My uncle felt grateful to make it past 40 but passed away at 43. My father died at 55. None of the causes were related. I'm nearing the age of my father's death now, and you are absolutely right--once you're staring it in the face, you can't believe you used to think that age could pass for a full life.

Happy birthday to you, and thank you for your wise words.

Arnebya Herndon said...

I think it's so difficult to imagine 46 at 18, so difficult to imagine our lives ending before we felt we'd lived a fulfilled life. Outliving Jack compounds the effect your mom's early death had, I'm sure. Happy birthday, dear friend. (My favorite part of this post was acknowledging having important reasons to keep living and growing.)

Arnebya Herndon said...

I think it's so difficult to imagine 46 at 18, so difficult to imagine our lives ending before we felt we'd lived a fulfilled life. Outliving Jack compounds the effect your mom's early death had, I'm sure. Happy birthday, dear friend. (My favorite part of this post was acknowledging having important reasons to keep living and growing.)

Kir said...

Happy Birthday sweet friend. As I look down the road and only 5 more months to my own 46 I realize I am right where I need to be.

Your post today is just beautiful and pulls at my heartstrings. My dad died when he was 52 and I'd like to live longer than that of course. Losing Ben when he was only 34 was heart wrenching because of all the things he didn't do, didn't get to make right.

My wish for you is to ALWAYS...always have tomorrows and next weeks; to have happiness and sunshine on the horizon even when the skies are gray. I know this year and the ones that follow will be full of surprises and miracles and that is my hope for you every day.

Elaine Alguire said...

You SO do have important reasons to keep living here on earth! Happy Birthday, Anna! I know you have a wonderful year ahead. And I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother at such a young age.

xo

Joyce said...

Anna, your post spoke to me so much. Happy birthday! xo

retrogirlandthechemokid said...

Happy Birthday, even with all the conflicting emotions. My 47th birthday was on Saturday. I may need to start lying by omission about my age... My birthday falls four days after the anniversary of my daughter's death and one day before the date we held her funeral, so there are always mixed emotions. My dad was 70 when he died and even this seems too young these days, though the one thing I am grateful for is that he never had to live past Zoe's death.

Beth said...

My mom's first stroke was at 45, and she died at 53. Those are my countdowns, also counting how old my kids will be at each age.

Reading your post, I thought, "So I'm not the only one". Reading the comments, I see I am not.

Thank you for your sharing, even of hard things in your life. So many times I have felt less alone reading your blog.

Birthday blessings on you!

EatPlayLove said...

Happy Birthday Anna, I wish you a year of self discovery and joy. :) XO

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Happy Birthday to you.....

My mom died at 56 and we all wondered if we would too. I just turned 64, my sister is 66 and my brother is 69. My mother got to meet her four grandchildren. I worry about that. I never expected to be this old and not have grandchildren. My sister has been a grandmother of 4 for 20 years now. Imagine my father who is 92 and has been fortunate to know his 4 great grandchildren. I will never see that!

I think about you and Jack all the time. ((HUGS))

Sherri said...

It is WAY too young, but I can understand how at the time your mother died it seemed that she was old. Time and experience sure change our perspective, don't they? Hope your birthday was a good one... and that it feels good to move past that milestone.

Amanda said...

Same here, but at age 38, the age my Dad died. All five of us have now surpassed the age and it was hard for each of us. I'm so sorry you lost your Mom and Jack, both way before their time.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Anna! Sending you love and support and cheers and many more squeezy hugs.

love,
jbhat

Callie said...

I have read your blog for years and years and never said a thing, but today I felt compelled to comment. I lost my dad when I was 18 and he was 46. He was an athlete and a runner, in great shape, and died unexpectedly of a heart attack while out on his daily run. I so resonate with everything you wrote. And yet I have a million questions. Losing my dad so tragically, so unexpectedly threw me into a world of anxiety. This Type A, planning-type could no longer plan for the future. There was too much unexpected. And now, as I am carrying my first child, due at the end of November those same feelings of fear and anxiety over her life can be overwhelming. I have such fear over losing her. And yet that is exactly the journey you walked. I don't even know how to do that or where to put all that in my brain. God and I have these crazy talks where I tell him I have had my share of grief, so I don't need any more. But unfortunately, he doesn't work that way. Trusting and knowing that He is good and faithful doesn't mean that I won't experience pain and loss again. And sometimes that realization alone is crippling. Wow. I just unloaded a whole lot! Just something that I wrestle with on a fairly regular basis - and you have lived it. Maybe that's why I am so drawn to you and your writing and your story. I see me in you. You have given me great hope. Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

I lost my own mom when she was 49, and she lost HER mom when her mom was 46. I turn 40 in 10 days, and am thinking of making this decade count, just in case!!!

I pray often for you and Tim and Margaret and Jack.

Wishing you a happy birthday!!!

Lisa G. in CT

Dawn said...

Happy belated birthday. 46 is way too young to die. Certainly 12 is too young too. I hope this year, however it changes you or your life, is a good one.

Lisa said...

My father died at 42. i never had the thought that I would die at that age. But I knew for sure that my husband would. (HE didn't, he just turned 50) There are so many decisions that I made with this "fact" in mind. It's a strange phenomenon
.