“I can’t believe I have to wait until I’m 23 to have my Golden Birthday! Abby is so lucky she got to have hers at 13!”  

—Emily at age 16
Memories from birthday celebrations over the years!
Memories from birthday celebrations over the years!

My baby girl will never get that Golden Birthday. On the eve of March 23, I sat in my kitchen and cried as I anticipated the day. What should have been a joyous event, feels so empty and pitiful. I pulled out my recipe book and stared at the “Moist Lemon Cake,” printed from Cooks.com, back when we all used to Google recipes online and print them out.

It’s the cake I made for her every year, for at least the last decade or so. Even last year, our first birth date without her, I made the cake. 

From my recipe book
From my recipe book

Should I make it this year? What’s the point? I asked myself. I don’t know if having Emily’s favorite lemon cake to mark the date of her birth is good for my family or not. I don’t even know if I feel like making the damn cake. 

I just want my baby girl back. A sugary, lemon cake isn’t going to change that. It’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t really fix anything, does it? 

I imagined how we would be celebrating this big day, if she were still alive. Even with coronavirus, I would have found a way to make it as special as possible. When Abby turned thirteen, I got her birthstone earrings, which are rubies. I don’t think she’s ever worn them to this day—but I thought it was a good idea! Emily’s birthstone was aquamarine. I planned to give Emily an aquamarine necklace or ring for her Golden Birthday.

The thing that you really can’t prepare for after the death of someone you love are the anniversaries. There are so many of them. Of course holidays are difficult and depressing. But birth dates and death dates are almost unbearable. I find myself pushing it out of my head for as long as possible. But eventually the calendar catches up with me. Always on the eve of these anniversaries, I begin falling apart. 

I’d like to go to bed and keep the covers over my head until the date has come and gone. I did that for most of my first Mother’s Day without her. Mother’s Day 2018 was the last day I saw Emily alive. However, I ended up feeling that giving in to the depths of my own sorrow seemed self-indulgent and hurt my other children. After all, I am still their mom too. And that can’t be overlooked.

So back to the Golden Birthday. My baby girl will never be 23, but rather forever 21. How do you celebrate something that will never be and no matter what you do, it will never make up for the loss? I don’t have an answer to that question. Nearly two years since her death, grief remains my constant companion.

The coronavirus has gripped this nation in fear. I know that fear all too well. No one is ever really prepared to lose someone you love. We must take this virus seriously and do whatever we can to lessen the damage and loss of life. Yet, mothers who have lost children in the opioid epidemic, question if their children would still be alive had the country responded to the drug epidemic, as it has the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand a virus and drug addiction seem like very different things. But one thing I know for certain is that no one chooses addiction either. 

Despite these challenging times, I am going to continue to work tirelessly in my daughter’s name to stop the stigma of addiction so that everyone understands it as the brain disease that it is. Addiction didn’t end with the arrival of the coronavirus. I am worried about those families dealing with it now, all staying in the same place together. I can only imagine the fear and trauma that is taking place behind many closed doors. 

Even during our economic uncertainty, people are still generously donating to Emily’s Hope in honor of Emily’s Golden Birthday on March 23rd. I have asked for 100 people to donate $23 to raise $2300 on our Emily’s Hope Facebook Page. I am so very grateful that people are meeting the challenge! That is a lot more comforting than lemon cake.

Happy Golden Birthday in Heaven, Baby Girl! 

Faith, Hope & Courage,