Birthdays … Beautiful and Bittersweet

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I turned 60 in October, the day filled with a range of emotions. Etched in my brain and soul was the last time I saw my sister Jane, to celebrate my 25th birthday. For 35 years, my birthday held a cloud, never the joy of celebrating me on my birthday, always the pain of the loss of my cherished sister and nine years later, the loss of my beloved sister Margie. The tragedies and challenges of my life undeniably altered who I am, are part of me, and at 60, I have persevered, embracing the sum total of it all.

After 35 years, the anxiety leading up to my birthday was lessening. I had not been 100% present at the parties for milestones at 40 and 50 because I felt I did not deserve to feel the joy of a birthday. I forced myself to have parties for my children and put on a good face, even as inside my heart breaking. I do not know how I mustered the strength necessary to hold myself together and smile.

Five years ago, I commenced the work on my grief after 30 years, including in a complicated-grief program this past year that aided me tremendously. For the first time in all those years, my birthday held a ray of sunshine. The aching will persist but now there’s hope of a rainbow.

At 60, I had a real old fashioned birthday party. True confession: a part of me still felt a hole in my heart. A piece of me knew that I deserved a milestone birthday with family and friends. The day of the party, I broke down in tears, called a friend and still had that hesitation. “Could I go through with this?” I am glad I did.

My family and friends gathered all happy to be there for me, understanding the trepidation. They were supportive and loving. As ice skating is my passion, the party was held at an ice skating rink. I felt the joy and peace on the ice as well as the connection to my sisters.

Another perspective on grief and birthdays are the annual reminders of my beloved sisters’ birthdays in November. In the past, I had that sadness. I always worked myself into quite a state leading up to their birthdays. The actual birthday would come and pass often times without too much distress.  For that reason, I now focus and channel my energy and love to commemorate my sisters on their birthdays with Celebration of Sisters, an annual ice-skating fundraiser.

The fundraiser last year fell on Margie’s birthday and this year on Jane’s. To honor my sisters, we skated to “Beautiful.” Both my sisters liked Carole King, something I recently found out. Many of their friends came to the event and I was deeply touched how Margie and Jane remain in their thoughts and hearts after all these years.

Who knows what next year will bring? Every year tends to be different. I never know whether it will be a raindrop or a hurricane of emotions and tears. I am now giving myself permission to feel what I feel, the range from heartache to sunshine knowing that my cherished sisters are eternally loved and remembered.

My birthday proved to be beautiful and bittersweet. My treasured sisters Margie and Jane are forever beside me and in my heart.

 

Judy Lipson

More Articles Written by Judy

I am a sister who sadly lost both my sisters. I lost my younger beloved sister Jane died at age 22 in an automobile accident in 1981, and my older beloved sister Margie passed away at age 35 after a 20-year battle with anorexia and bulimia in 1990. I am the sole surviving sibling. As the Founder and Chair of “Celebration of Sisters,” this annual ice skating fundraiser honors and commemorates the lives and memories of my beloved sisters to benefit The John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The event is scheduled the first Sunday in November as Jane’s birthday was November 6th and Margie’s November 8th. We celebrate all lost siblings, their legacies as they live on in all of us. Since the inception of Celebration of Sisters in 2011, I have embarked on the journey to mourn the losses of my beloved sisters that had been suppressed for 30 years. The process unmistakably the greatest challenging time in my life proved to be the most empowering, enlightening and freeing. Now that I am allowing my sisters and their memories to return to my heart where they truly belong, I am re-discovering myself, happier and more at peace. I share my love of ice-skating as a skating instructor in the learn to skate programs at the Babson Skating School and Bay State Skating School, and as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Therapeutic Skating Program at The Skating Club of Boston. I live in Boston and am the mother of two grown daughters. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

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