Last year on this day, I went to Starbucks with my children to have a birthday drink. While we were there sipping our drinks, my phone rang. It was my dearly beloved friend, Karen, and she told me that there had been a shooting at an elementary school in her town. Yes, she lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
Shock. Terror. Horror. Tragedy. Sorrow upon sorrow - 20 times over, and then some. How have we arrived at this place in our world where things like that keep on happening? And why? There are no words, no answers, nothing to say that can relieve the agony of the loss of all those lives, children, adults, and even the shooter. What a tragic day in the lives of so many people...
Yesterday, I gave myself an early birthday present - a day of silence at a serene retreat center an hour from my home. I spent all day in "the red room" - reading, journaling, praying, taking photos, reviewing this past year of my life and laying out a few goals and hopes for the coming year. I ate an awesome salad and vegan sushi from Trader Joe's, drank tea and water and ate homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies. I don't always eat a vegan diet, but I knew I would NOT be eating terribly clean today, so I figured I'd give my body a healthy start to the weekend. The money I paid for that Quiet Day was the best $20 I've spent in a very long time. Happy early birthday to me!!!
Today, Kristiana and I returned to the same Starbucks for a celebratory drink. I have come a long way since being there last year. I have hair now. I don't have kanswer or a chemo port anymore. I am no longer concerned about my immune system every time I hear someone cough or sneeze. My life is no longer measured by doctor's appointments or chemo treatments. I am strong, happy, at peace, and looking forward to all that is yet to come in this life of mine.
Two fun and smile-inducing coincidences today - I overheard two people behind the counter at Starbucks say that one of their co-workers wasn't working today because it is her birthday as well. Happy birthday to her and to me!!! Also one of the presents I received today was a Target gift card, so after lunch with my mom, Kristiana and I went to Target so I could use the card. I am one of those people who gets a gift card and keeps it for at least a year because "you never know when you might really need something, so don't spend it now." I still have Itunes and Amazon money from last year's birthday... Today I was determined to spend it on the day I received it. I didn't spend it all, but I spent more than half. Anyway... while walking through the store, we overheard a woman ordering pizza on her cell phone. "Do you need a name? The name is Henderson," she said. I smiled. I love those serendipitous moments; they always make me smile and say, "God, you have a great sense of timing and humor."
This morning, Karen's sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I can't think of a much better way to honor those whose lives were taken than to celebrate his new life recently begun, to celebrate my ongoing life, and to promise myself that I will continue to celebrate love, laughter, peace and joy - not only today, but also every other day that I am fortunate enough to awaken into and enjoy.
It's my party and even though I am celebrating myself today, I am also deeply sorrowful for the families for whom this date will always be a reminder of the loss of someone near and dear. I'm sure many tears are being shed in Sandy Hook today on the occasion of this awful anniversary. Nonetheless, it is also a day to remember how important it is to live every moment and every day to the fullest. I hope and pray that no one else will ever have an encounter with a crazed gun-toting lunatic again, however there is no denying that we will all face the end of our lives someday. Between now and then, may we be determined to live every day as a celebration of life.
Now please pardon me while I go eat the banana creme pie I brought home from 131 Main, my favorite restaurant.