When I turned 16 my mom threw me a surprise birthday party with pink balloons on the ceiling, a house full of my friends, and lots of food and cake. I had just finished my shift at Dunkin’ Donuts but when I walked in the house everyone shouted “Surprise!” while I gasped and giggled. It is on my top-ten list of favorite life moments. I was planning to do the same for my girl. Instead of a surprise party, my family had to navigate how to celebrate my daughter Maddie’s birthday as a heavenly birthday. I was dreading it for months. It was heartbreaking.
This was absolutely the hardest day since her death in May 2021. This is the message I posted on Facebook about her first Heavenly Birthday:
While I anticipated a sad, sad day it ended up being a day of kindness and thoughtfulness. The messages, calls, texts, surprises, gifts, and especially prayers truly made a difference. While there were plenty of tears there was also laughter (especially the scarecrow wearing a party hat – see photo).
Jeb received texts from Maddie’s friends and even macaroons from her friend Winona. And his teachers/school staff were so good to him and even bought him lunch.
I talked to my sister Mary in Denver and mother-in-law Beverly in Rome. It’s always so good to chat with them.
The picture captions tell the rest of the day’s story….
So very grateful.
A Morning Surprise
I wasn’t sure what the day would bring. I was nervous, teary and fully aware of the hole in my heart. While I tried to keep the household’s spirits up, my internal mood was melancholy. Instead of taking Maisie straight to school, the plan was to take her to grief counseling where she would do something special to honor Maddie. As Maisie and I walked outside our home to the car, something whimsical caught our attention. We found a swarm of colorful butterflies in our garden left by our thoughtful next-door neighbors. This was a lovely and hope-inspired way to start the day.
Note: These would be a sweet way to decorate a gravesite, too. butterflies are on a stick and insert nicely into the ground.
A Nature Surprise
Feeling a little lighter, I drove Maisie to her grief counselor. We arrived a few minutes early and took a nature walk on a nearby path only to come across a doe. She wasn’t startled and just stared at Maisie.
A Birthday Card for Maddie
Maisie’s counselor bought her a red velvet Nothing Bunt Cake bundlet. They sang happy birthday to Maddie and Maisie wrote Maddie a letter in a sister’s birthday card. She delivered it to the gravesite later that evening.
After dropping Maisie off at school, I attended Mass at St. John Neumann (not our normal church). The alter was decorated with sunflowers. The picture I posted of Maddie had sunflowers in the background and they were also my mom’s favorite flower.
“Thinking of You” Flowers
My neighbors/friends Leslie and Holly sent these beautiful flowers with yellow roses. As I was getting ready to go for a walk Leslie texts me and said she was heading out for a walk around the lake asked did I want to join her. We had a nice time walking, talking, and catching up.
Edible Arrangement – A Sweet Treat
During the walk, I missed an Edible Arrangement delivery so I picked it up. It was from Maddie’s longtime childhood friend Mia’s family. She also left the sweetest IG message. Accompanying the fruit bouquet were two bags of Maddy & Maize popcorn (my girls are Maddie and Maisie). If you haven’t tried it, you should!
Our neighbors Thor and Emily caught us before we left for the cemetery and delivered Crumbl Cookies. If you haven’t had these yet, they are dangerously delicious.
Our other neighbor Kerri and family dropped off gorgeous pink roses and a lit memory jar. We keep this on our little home shine for Maddie and on Halloween I put it on our front patio next to our angel. We didn’t get our jack-o-lantern carved this year so it counted as our lit porch decoration.
Decorating the Plot
Maddie’s headstone is still in the works but that didn’t stop friends and family from decorating the plot. Her best friend Grace and her parents brought a lantern with a birthday card and balloons the weekend before. Her family is really sweet at decorating her plot. They even brought a scarecrow earlier in the month for fall. When we arrived with Sweet 16 balloons and flowers we were surprised to see there had been several other flower deliveries for her heavenly birthday. Some of Maddie’s other friends even visited after dark.
We brought cupcakes and sang happy birthday and were surprisingly in good spirits. Instead of crying we laughed and were silly, especially when my husband Jeff put a mini birthday hat on the scarecrow. Maddie would have loved it!
Words of Encouragement
When we arrived home Maisie shared the cards her class made for her. The words of encouragement and hope were so sweet. In fact, the entire heavenly birthday was full of hope.