Today, my Nanna celebrated her 96th birthday. As our family gathered around her to share cake and stories, just as we have every year until now, it was impossible not to feel the tremendous absence of our Pa, who for the first time ever, was not beside her for her birthday.
She, with her infinite wisdom, calmness and kindness, and he, with his larger-than-life personality and enormous heart, have always been a joint package. Our two-for-one deal. Our two happy travellers. Just…..our two.
After 60 odd years of marriage, and a lifetime of adventures together, the space beside her today seemed so empty, just as it has done for the entire six weeks since he passed. It’s hard to imagine how it must have felt for her, if it felt so outrageously raw for me, but in true Nanna form, she embraced her day with laughter, and gratitude, and grace. And so, we followed suit. After all, it’s what he would have wanted.
It’s such a juxtaposition of emotions; celebrating the birthday of one half of the perfect pair, while still grieving the loss of the other. The joy, and the sadness intermingle in such perfect harmony, that it’s difficult to know where one sensation ends and the other begins. The heart swells with so many things, that words can’t capture the enormity of it all. Yet there we sit, and there we stay, buoyed by the knowledge that we are in the company of others who feel the same, and we take solace in the fact that although he is gone, she is still with us. We still have her to love. We can still kiss her warm cheek, and tell her about our day, and drink tea with her, and listen to her memories. Her tales of their life together, and the adventures they experienced together. Their story. Thus, while we still have her, we still have him, and they are still, in a different way, our two.
In a perfectly poignant, beautiful, and surprisingly appropriate turn of events, after we shared the birthday cake, our family gathered with our darling Nanna to commit Pa’s ashes to the earth in a beautiful garden, where he will wait with the roses, and the azaleas, for her to join him. Watching the love that shone from her face as she carefully added soil to his plot today, it was apparent that despite being separated by death, Pa had indeed found a way to share her birthday with her after all.
And I’m not surprised, not one bit.
Although they were never known for romantic gestures, or extravagant displays of affection, theirs was the greatest love story I’ve ever known.
Happy Birthday Nan. You are so loved, and we are so thankful that we have you.