Those are the last birthday messages my mum will ever send me. She died 131 days later.
As time is wont to do, August 3rd rolled around again, and with it came my first birthday without my mum. I was prepared for my first Christmas, first New Year’s, her first birthday, hell even the first Mother’s Day without my mum. What I was completely unprepared for was my first birthday without her. She always made a big deal out of it and is the reason I go so hard during Leo season and birth month. In retrospect, it is obvious that my first birthday without her would hit the hardest.
In primary school my mum always came through with cake on my birthday to share with my classmates. While in lower primary it would be a Barbie cake. You know the one, with the bottom of Barbie’s Cinderella dress made of vanilla cake with pink and white icing. My younger self would geek the fuck out to this cake. She would also come with goodies to share with the class making me really popular for the day. Her and my classmates would sing for me and I would feel so very loved and special. Once I got to upper primary, Barbie was swapped for chocolate cake but everything else remained the same. What dedication, commitment and boundless love my mother showed me for eight years by never missing the opportunity to make my birthday special.
I went to boarding for high school and sadly my birthday always fell during the last week or so of term. Sometimes we would be having exams, other times we would have just finished them and would be ‘thorough cleaning’ the school before we closed for the August holidays. If I was not having an exam, my mum would charm the headmistress into saying hi to me. This speaks a lot to how charismatic she was as we were only allowed visitors once a year during visiting day. Literally visiting day; we only had one a year. Being a super strict school, she was unable to bring me any goodies. But after weeks of not seeing my mum, her radiant smile and warm hug were more than enough for me. The minute I got home for the holidays, she would have homemade chocolate cake waiting for me.
When I finally attained legal drinking age, my birthday was all about partying with friends and/or boyfriends. After all, birthdays in your twenties are when you are most likely to drink like there is no tomorrow. And all through my mum was always one of the first to wish me a happy birthday, and tell me how much she loves me. For my 29th birthday she sent the most beautiful text, saying – among other things – that she became a mother because of me.
So this year’s birthday was extremely difficult, but also very encouraging. My family and friends were there for me; they even formed a group chat to guarantee I had the best day possible. And indeed we had a great evening, full of food, love, laughter and shots. They knew how difficult it would be for me to celebrate my first birthday without mum and they did all they could to make sure I did not get swallowed whole by the loss and despair.
I learnt to love my birthday from my mother. But now it is time I take those learnings and make them my own. Is that not the goal of parenthood after all? To equip your child with the skillset, tools and learnings to carry on after you. However difficult, I will continue looking forward to celebrating more life every August 3rd. Because with family and friends like mine, how can I possibly not?