A Birthday Ghost Story

So, I just had a birthday. And I’ve got a story to share about it. It was kind of a “light-bulb” moment with a slight supernatural twist. Maybe. (You be the judge.) But it was an important moment and birthday gift, to be sure.

Rewind to a few mornings ago, on the day of my birthday. I was sitting in my car and I was feeling pretty great. The kids had been dropped off at camp, and I was about to pick up my husband for a day alone together. (I know! THAT’S a gift right there!) I was alive and healthy and my family was healthy. All was well.

So, as I was driving along and kind of settling into the groove of my day, I was suddenly caught entirely off guard. On the 80’s station I was listening to (…yeah, yeah, it was my 39th birthday, so they’re relevant tunes for me…), a Stevie Wonder song came on. NOT one of his best, but one my mother used to love.

And it was as if I could hear her say right there next to me, “Oh, I’ve always loved this song.” So, there I was, sitting at a stoplight and hearing the song “I Just Called To Say I Love You”  for the first time in many, many years. Of all the songs… really…

The intersection I was sitting at was significant, too. It was there when I got a call on my cell from my mom 3 years prior to wish me happy birthday. I remember that detail because I have replayed so many of our interactions during those weeks in July.

About two weeks after that particular birthday, she passed away.

So, if you know me, you know what I thought about that particular song playing on my birthday at that very intersection.

It was like she was in the car with me. Truly.

And, yeah, I was all kinds of out-of-the-blue emotional. I truly went from 100%, totally FINE and jazzed about having a day for me to just chill out and be grateful for my life… to a muddled, weepy mess at a traffic light.

It’s fine, though. That’s how loss goes. Mourning happens out of the blue sometimes. And, after all this time, I’m actually grateful for it because it means she is present in my heart and she is still so very real in many ways.

Anyway, I learned an important lesson in that quick moment. Maybe some of you have realized this before but it took me 39 years and a bad Stevie Wonder song to figure it out…

Your birthday is not your own. It is your mother’s day, too.

Sure, sure, you came into the world that day. Good for you. Toss the confetti. Being alive is certainly a very good thing. But I can bet you all the coins lost deep in my couch cushions that your mother cares more about your birthday–a day she worked so, so damn hard to get you out of her body and breathing and OK–than she does about her own birthday.

I remember the first birthday I had after my first son was born. It felt so stupidly insignificant. THIS child and HIS life was significant. My job was to live for him now, birthday-shmirthday, behold the golden, blessed child!

(Well, ok, so that’s a “new mom” thing. You get all overwhelmed by that new kid, you think you don’t really matter… but you do, of course. Balance. Love yourself, then love another and all that poppycock… I get it. Now.)

Anyway, I may not have cared about my birthday in the weeks after my son was born but I will tell you who did… my mother. My guess is that, all those years ago, she probably didn’t express it very well. I don’t know how that call went that day, but we had a lifetime of issues we never really made peace with. It’s likely that we may have only talked briefly.

It doesn’t matter. I know she was was thinking of me on that day and all the birthday before and after that. Whatever the baggage, mothers think about their children on their children’s birthdays. Sometimes it’s about the one thing they are even sure of: “I gave birth to someone special on this very day.”

I get it.

Anyway, I had a great birthday. 39, woot!

(And many thanks to my mom for checking in that morning, too.)



#1 Run DMT on 07.19.12 at 4:18 am

Well, that was just the coolest thing I’ve read in a while. I totally believe in supernatural moments like that and without a doubt I believe it was definitely your mom wishing you a happy birthday. Did you know that spirits often communicate through electronic devices? (Or so I’ve been told by all the ghost shows on TV.)

Glad you recognized the moment for what it was and took the moment to be thankful for her, your life and your precious children.
Run DMT´s last blog post ..A Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Birthday

#2 Lisa on 07.19.12 at 9:04 am

Okay, THIS made me tear up:

Sometimes it’s about the one thing they are even sure of: “I gave birth to someone special on this very day.”

I’m so happy you Mom called to say she loved you (then and now)

#3 Diane on 07.19.12 at 9:20 am

Caroline, this is so beautiful. What an incredible moment. Your insight is, as always, spot on. Happy belated birthday! I will be thinking of you in the coming weeks.
Diane´s last blog post ..This way you have to make it yourself if you want to see how awesome it is

#4 MauraLessa on 07.19.12 at 10:02 am

Love this!! I believe in those happenings, too. I was going through a tough time lately and had prayed for my dearly loved grandfather, who passed away nearly three years ago, to give me guidance. (Relevant side note: We always think of him when we see butterflies.) Anyway, I went to church for the first time in years and there it was. The pastor was wearing a vestment covered in embroidered butterflies. And, the sermon was exactly what I needed to hear. I sobbed the whole service.

Sorry to bogart your comments. I am glad you felt close to your mom on your birthday and I love the lesson you took from it.


#5 Jesabes on 07.19.12 at 1:38 pm

I found this through Diane and am so glad she linked it. This made me cry and want to go hug my own mom.

#6 Nan on 07.26.12 at 6:14 pm

Your perceptions, insight, and ability to voice them contine to be a gift in my life. (As always, I hope this is all being stored for the boys)

When we lived in Venezuela as early teens, I was shocked to see the Europeans that lived there celebrate the parents on a child’s birthday. They said that the parent is mostly responsible for how that child is growing and developing, and they deserve the applause and encouragement. For a 12 year old it was a bit of a disappointment, but time has shown the me the wise reality of the thoughts.
I’m glad that you saw and felt such a special moment in time, Caroline. They make life worthwhile.

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