For the first time in 26 years, I will not experience the excitement of planning the perfect birthday gift for Madi. I miss her so much, and I miss so many little things. I miss knowing I got her the perfect gift, something meaningful, something useful and generally spoiling her.
As a child, we had some fantastic themed parties. Her 4th birthday was a puppy party. The kids wore puppy ears and had their faces painted. In all of the cuteness, I did not anticipate the constant yipping and barking; we joked that next year we would do a bunny party.
These past 5 years, we were just grateful for her to blow out her candles and be here for her birthday. We were so thankful for the gift of life that presents were welcomed but the intimate family gathering and taking it all in was enough.
Last year, we had no idea that exactly two months after she blew out her birthday candles, we would sit in Oakland Cemetery, just her dad, brother and I and try to comprehend how our miracle had come to this. The service the night before made me so proud of her, but the next morning sitting in a cold cemetery, I felt a part of myself die. I had no idea how I would move forward, and sometimes I still feel that way.
This year I am determined to wholeheartedly celebrate Madi and wholeheartedly grieve. I have found that when I make the time to stop numbing myself with busyness and just let the tears and pain run through my heart sometimes like a river and other times like a tsunami, that I can suddenly breathe again.
This year for Madi's birthday, I shared in a Facebook post for those that love Madi to find a way to bring joy bombs to others. It could be a stranger or just someone that needs encouragement. God was so gracious and provided so many joy bombs for her at just the right moment. A few of these things stick out; once in California she was grocery shopping, Thanksgiving was coming, and money was tight. A couple in the store, not only paid for the items in her cart but had her turn around and get more. Another time, a Girl Scout Troop supplied the kids with Christmas gifts. She also had a mentor/friend provide dinner for her every Thursday night. So for Madi's birthday, I think it would be fitting for those that love her to dedicate a day to do something kind for a stranger or someone that you know that could use the encouragement. Madi loved it when people made time for her or when God dropped a "joy bomb" in her life. Yesterday, I made someone smile, and I told them Madi's story. It was hard, I had tears, but I felt it perfectly honored her. "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."
In the book Be The Gift Ann Voskamp says "don't think that every gift of grace, every act of kindness, isn't a quake in a heart that moves another heart to give, that moves another heart to give, that grows into an avalanche of grace. Don't say this isn't what a brokenhearted world desperately needs; don't say it isn't how to change a broken world. What if the truth really is that every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?"
As a family, we will wholeheartedly celebrate Madi in the best way I feel we can honor her, being a joy bomb to others and I pray that the tremors of kindness we show will erupt as miracles all over the world.