Thursday, September 25, 2014

I think I'm going to stop celebrating my birthday

It seems that my birthday is full of sorrow and sad memories. These are not the "oh I didn't get any gifts," or "nobody really cares and didn't wish me a happy birthday," kind of saddness. No, this saddness and sorrow run so much deeper.

I guess you could say this all started around my 18th birthday, just a few days over 10 years ago. I was a senior in Highschool when I received word that my maternal grandfather was in the hospital and going to soon pass. My mother got everything ready so we could make the trip down from middle Tennessee to southern Mississippi. I told her I didn't want to go and see my grandfather lying sickly in the hospital; I wanted to remember the strong determined man i had known my whole life, not his empty, hollow shell. We had an argument but I reassured my mother that I would drive down for the funeral.

Later that day my aunt came by and picked me up. My grandfather was technically dead - his brain no longer working and machines keeping him alive - and they wanted the whole family to be present when they pulled his life support. I stood in his hospital room staring into empty eyes as I slowly watched him die.

Two days later I turned 18. Two days later I buried my grandfather.

Friends and family would say, "Happy birthday, sorry about your grandpa," but it was all meaningless to me.

Now, every year on my birthday I remember my grandfather passing away and putting him in the ground.

Fast forward 9 years. That would be 2013. My paternal grandfather passed away just two days after his birthday. His birthday was the day before mine. I dropped everything and made my way down to Miami; the last time I had been down to see my grandparents was in the winter of 2006 after I had married my wonderful wife.

I almost got fired from work because of some miscommunication. As a result I was able to attend my grandfather's memorial service, but not his grave side service. I had wanted to be in uniform and present his flag to my grandmother after military honors had been rendered, but I was busy driving 14 hours back home.

At work I was repeatedly penalized for taking that time off - they never came out and said it, but it was heavily implied - and thus I never got a pay raise nor was I eligible for promotion. My finances also still haven't recovered from taking that time off.

Now it's my birthday yet again. Shortly after arriving to work I received a message that my paternal grandmother is not doing so well. I knew she had been in and out of the hospital as of late. She hasn't been doing well at all since her husband, my grandfather - passed away. The doctors don't know how much longer she has to live, but they do know that she will pass soon. It could be a few weeks, or months (hopefully), but it doesn't look good.

In all honesty I don't think I can celebrate my birthday anymore, instead I will set this day aside to mourn the loss of my loved ones. It is good to mourn the fact that the ones we love are no longer with us. It is escapism to deny yourself a time to mourn and pretend that everything is awesome - a homecoming - because it doesn't and shouldn't make the hurt any less real.

But everything thing is not all gloom and doom in this post. I have obtained a day to mourn, yes, but I still have a day to celebrate. In the Orthodox Church people choose a saint to be their patron. This saint's name becomes their baptismal name and the name they use when receiving the Eucharist. They also usually celebrate their saint's/name day - the day their saint is commemorated - as one would a birthday. In many Orthodox countries the name day is celebrated instead of a birthday.

I propose that from here on out I will only celebrate my name day, setting my birthday aside as a day of remembrance so my loved ones' memories may be eternal.

Now, here is the tricky part... Most people have a chosen a saint that is celebrated on the same day every year. So if their saint is commemorated today then every year they would celebrate on this day. I, however, seem to have been odd. My patron saint, the Prophet King David, does not have a set date of commemoration.

The Church commemorates him together with all the ancestors of Christ on the Sunday of the Forefathers (December 11-17, depending on the day on which the Nativity falls) and also on the first Sunday after the Nativity, along with Joseph the Betrothed and the Apostle James the Just. OrthodoxWiki

So I actually have two days I can celebrate, but I usually choose the first. But as can be seen in the above quote the date can vary; this year it happens to fall on the 14th of December.

From now on I will celebrate only on my name day, leaving my birthday as a day to mourn and remember. If anyone a has trouble remembering when the date is just ask me and I'll let you know.
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