Today marks the beginning of what I refer to as my birthday month. I once made a joke about my birthday needing more than one day to be celebrated, and so began my birthday month. Although this comment was said in jest, the truth be told, I do love to celebrate birthdays, and not just my own. I do my fair share in keeping the birthday card industry afloat by sending cards to loved ones, and thanks to social media, I can send birthday greetings that are instantaneous and free, as well. I really do enjoy birthdays, but the start of my birthday month no longer ushers in just the month of my birth. It means so much more.
Two years ago, as I woke up to commemorate the start of a new day and a new month, I was blissfully unaware that my dear friend would not be marking this day, or any other day for that matter, with me. As that day wound down, I remember thinking that it was a bit odd that she had not reached out to me, as she got a kick out of my self-proclaimed birthday month almost as much as I did. I assumed that she was busy with her two adorable boys or working at her favorite boutique. I didn’t give it much more thought, and I went about my business, not knowing that it was not business as usual.
The next day was a beautiful Sunday morning here in Kentucky, but the storm clouds of anxiety were swirling in my head, something my friend understood all too well. After indulging in a delicious breakfast with my youngest daughter, I stopped by a local health food store and bought an herbal supplement said to help ease anxiety. Shortly, after I arrived home, I could not get the top off of that bottle fast enough to put it to the test. Nothing, though, could ease the anxiety and ensuing pain that I felt. Nothing.
That bottle and I both hit the floor when I learned that my friend, Charlene, had died. She was found alone in her home, after having taken her own life on August 1. The start of my birthday month and every day since then was changed forever.
I wrote about Charlene and her best friend, Sue, in Tiny Dancer , so, I won’t rehash those sentiments here, other than to say everything I said then remains true now. I still think of Charlene and Sue as a unit, and not a day passes when I don’t think of this dynamic duo, my Jersey girls, in some way.
Over the past two years, I have replayed memories of my Jersey girls in my head, along with memories of my calls and messages to and from Charlene, especially those during her final days. I have experienced all of the prerequisite feelings associated with grief. Disbelief. Sorrow. Anger. Guilt. I don’t know that I ever will reach the stage of acceptance, though. I do know that I still love her and miss her, and I always will.
Late this afternoon, I happened upon the two feathers pictured at the top of this page in my front yard. These may seem like two random, ordinary feathers, and maybe, they are. I don’t think so, though. You see, Charlene loved feathers and believed that they served as signs, and she would delight in finding them. It made me smile when she would talk about the feathers that seemed to find their way to her in the most unlikely places at just the right time. She took comfort in them, and they gave her hope.
When I spotted the first feather on the ground, I began to smile. I silently thanked Charlene for sending it to me, as I know that she did. Almost like an early birthday present of sorts. A short distance from the first feather, I found the other feather. Again, I silently expressed my gratitude to her, and I also found myself feeling a sense of peace enter the space where I still mourn her.
I felt as if she were finally at peace herself, no longer struggling mightily with the invisible demons that tormented her, and that these feathers were signs. Good signs. I felt like my Jersey girl was here with me, smiling, and reassuring me that she is okay. That I am okay. That everything is okay. Just like she did so many times over the years.
Of course, without her, nothing is truly okay any more. August first is the first day of another month that will find me turning another year older, and it marks another year without Charlene. Somewhere, I hope that one of Charlene’s favorite singers, Jerry Garcia, who was born on this day, is serenading her, and I hope that she is dancing like the tiny dancer she is.
That’s another story .. .
Categories: That's Another Story