Today is mama’s 4th heavenly birthday. It’s easy to remember how long she’s been gone, because these anniversaries coincide perfectly with Audrey Nole’s birthdays. So today, we celebrate and mourn. This is the first year that Audrey is really big enough to understand what today is all about. When Papa told her that today was kind of like a birthday for her Grammie, without skipping a beat, she enthusiastically proclaimed that we will make a cake. Because what does one do on birthdays? Has cake, of course.

It’s not new to her developing mind, the concept of celebrating the birthday of someone not here on earth with us. When all the siblings were together this January, Audrey was insistent that we make a cake for Grammie’s birthday. And then just a few weeks later, same story for George Mason’s Birthday. It’s healing in a way to watch how easily she maneuvers grief and death. It’s not sad to her, or at least sadness isn’t the main event on a day like today, to acknowledge the life of someone who is no longer here with us. She cheerfully, purposefully, and without doubt, declares the celebration must include cake. Perhaps a few stories about this woman she never met. Perhaps she will remind us that she has her Grammie’s eyes. Or her vibrant smile will pull us all right back into the room with our mama as she told yet another story that we’d all heard a thousand times. Or the way that she adores her Papa and tells him about life; no filters, no cynicism. She looks him in the eye and tells it like it is. And since today is a birthday, even though it’s equal parts sad and wonderful, she concludes there must be cake. {not looking forward to telling her that I forgot to bring the candles...}

Her and I drove up to my dad’s cabin in Wyoming. A brief escape from life so that we could properly celebrate the life of the woman that shaped me into the mama I am today. Solitude with the man who lost his wife and love, and a big part of his identity, on this day 4 years ago. Time to soak in God’s glorious creation with the little mind of the bright light God sent our way only a few short weeks after saying “see you in heaven, mama”. Honestly, the best way to make your day better is to spend some time with Audrey Nole. She will turn your mood around in no time at all. Because to her, death is just something that happens. People who we love aren’t here with us and that’s normal for her. So there’s moments when she admits sadness over missing them, but there’s usually just a proclamation that her Grammie is dead and in heaven with Jesus. And then there’s the brief conversation about how when she dies Jesus is going to bring her to heaven and she’s going to give Grammie a great big hug - and then she’s going to play with George Mason. Because that’s what siblings do.

So as she naps off the tired legs from a morning filled with pancake making and sledding, I’m able to rest in a brief moment of silence and remembrance. There will most certainly be cake decorating to be done this afternoon and I’m sure more stories of mama will be shared with her tiny twin. I’m thankful for the timing, as awful as it seems on some days, of this little light of mine. Because 4 years ago today, life felt impossibly hard to imagine. And then two weeks later, our family welcomed the most healing gift we could have ever imagined. She never met my mama, and that makes me really sad, but I see so much of her Grammie in her, that I can’t help but smile. It is my prayer that through this journey of motherhood, my precious daughter would know my own mama almost as well as if she’d actually met her. That all the ways my mama shaped me, would show Audrey Nole sweet glimpses of the woman who had a heart on fire for the Lord and a love for her family that was rivaled only by the love she received from her savior.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mama. You are loved and missed, and it is our greatest pleasure as your kids to share you with our own children.