Anniversaries — milestones — are funny things. We’re on a plane, headed to a tropical island to mark, with joy, a happy day that took place a decade ago. We still have hours of breathing in the airplane’s stale oxygen, before we can take in the Hawaiian breeze, but we’re already celebrating. I’m balancing a glass of passion fruit juice on the tray table, my toes are freshly painted, my suitcase is brimming with swimwear, tank tops and flip flops. And all of it, from the juice to the clothes, seems to shout in oranges and pinks, yellows and aquas — all the happiest colors.
And then I close my eyes for a bit, in an effort to give in to the changing time zones, and it hits me. Today is May 18. How could I have forgotten? It's a day that used to bring joy to our good friends but is now a day they dread. Today would be their daughter’s third earthly birthday. But she left this world at just two years old. Next month marks one year since she left, another anniversary.
I realized this week that little Noely girl shares a birthday with my dad. I just did the math; he would’ve turned 63 today. We’d probably have a marathon talk over the phone about work and current events or, if we were in town, we would’ve started the day early to play 18 holes and spent the afternoon catching Mom up about our favorite moments of the round.
I have no way to resolve all these contrasting realities. No pithy sentence to tie it all in a clean bow. Life has the happy, the excruciating, the confusing. I’m praying for strength during the latter two, and a reminder to bask in the former.
The flight attendant just delivered rum and guava cocktails to our row of weary travelers, which is cheering me up a bit. Next to me, my father-in-law and mother-in-law, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary, raise their plastic-cup cocktails, and Aaron and I follow suite and declare, “Happy anniversary!”