An anniversary is the annual occurrence of a date which marks a significant event. Birthdays are, essentially, the anniversary of the day a person was born. Many people also have a wedding anniversary. There are anniversaries of historical events, the day a person was adopted, a first date, and the day a person died. People acknowledge anniversaries in all different ways - sometimes with small celebrations, other times with month-long activities, and still other times with no acknowledgement whatsoever.
Anniversaries also bring a lot of emotions. They lead us to look back, to reflect and to remember. In those reflections we can feel happiness, sadness, love, nostalgia, gratitude, hurt, and so much more.
Katie's birthday was last week. I took some time that day to remember my sweet girl and her joyous smile. I sat for several minutes and imagined what she would be like this year at seventeen. I cried as I told God how much I miss her. And I thanked him for the opportunity to be her mom for fourteen years and to have some really incredible memories. Certainly, it was an anniversary with a lot of different emotions.
Chad and I decided from the beginning that we do not want these anniversaries to be something we dread year after year. We do not want to create awkwardness for our kids or others by begging them to recall the same memories over and over. We recognize that as time passes, the pressure to remember Katie will become greater for us and less for most other people. To be honest, that sucks. But we understand that it is yet another aspect of a broken world, and what we do with it matters.
So we choose to allow for both instinctive and purposeful anniversaries. We give ourselves a lot of grace. We do not force ourselves or our kids to wake up, show up or participate in anything. But we also plan ahead to take forward steps on these days. We believe that birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate a person's life and the significance of their life mingling with ours. We absolutely desire to celebrate Katie's life on her birthday because we are so grateful for the time we had with her. And one of the ways we celebrate her is through blessing others on her behalf.
This year, we had a drive-by ice cream scooping in front of our house. We offered free scoops of Katie's favorite birthday cake flavored ice cream all evening, and we accepted pop-tab and monetary donations for Ronald McDonald House Charities. The little street in front of our house was crowded with cars as we stood in the dripping rain scooping cones for the many friends and family who walked or drove by. It was joyous and fun and so much like a celebration!
We are not alone in this. A friend of ours makes cookies for first responders on her late husband's anniversary. Another friend hosts a 5K to raise money for AEDs. Yet another sponsors a golf tournament. On Katie's death day, we will do the same. Although we often remember her death in a much more quiet way, this year we plan to be a part of the Strike Out Cancer Katie Cobb Tournament for baseball and softball teams. We will celebrate who she was to us. We will bless someone else. And in this way, we will grow in our capacity to love.
Yes, this is how we love Katie now.
We choose to rise to another day.
We choose to be grateful.
We choose to celebrate.
We choose to bless.
We choose to love.