When someone you love dies, living through their milestones is hard. Today would have been Charlie’s fiftieth birthday. Because of a drunk driver there will be no party and a cake glowing with fifty candles. Instead there will be silence cut with a slice of cake with one candle as I whisper “happy birthday Charlie” into the night.
Charlie will be forever forty. Forty was a hard birthday for him. Not because of the number, but because it was his first birthday without his twin brother Conner. He didn’t want a fuss or a party. He said “it wouldn’t be the same without Connor at my side.” So we planed a sailing trip in the Apostle Islands.
That trip was so simple yet glorious. It was just he and I, plus the seagulls. There are always pesky seagulls. We ate cold sandwiches and pasta salad until our stomachs hurt. Kayaked over to the islands to lay on the beach while we found shapes in the clouds. At night we laid on the fly bridge watching the night sky talking about what if’s and what could be’s. Charlie would point out the constellations to me as he told the Mohican story of how they came to be. We watched the sunrise while we ate cereal and played checkers. Charlie loved the sunrise he’d say to me “it’s Creator telling us that he still has faith in us by giving us a new day.”
His birthday rolled in without much fanfare. We placed a tiny wooden boat with a candle into the mighty lake to honor his brother. A life that was gone to soon. That evening I surprised him with a lemon cupcake that I had tucked away in the fridge. He pretended to blow out his non-existent candle as he made his wish with a smile. Charlie then squeezed my hand as we looked up at the beautifully painted sunset sky, “AJ, look what Creator has done for us tonight.” The sky was this perfect blend of cotton Candy pink, orange, and purple, it was beautiful.
If only I had known that would be the last birthday I’d spend with him. I would have soaked those moments in, cheated at checkers, and memorized our conversations under the stars. That’s the funny thing about fate, she lulls us into a calm to help us forget that this day could be our last. So instead of living in and soaking up the moments we plan for tomorrow, then the next day and the day after that.
That’s the hardest lesson to learn in life, cherish every moment because you never know when it will be the last.