Today would have been my daughter Gavriella’s 28th birthday. Gavriella took her own life 6 months ago after suffering with an eating disorder for 13 years.
I am not sure what to do with the concept of a birthday of someone who is no longer alive. It is still her birthday. She was born 28 years ago on this day. That fact doesn’t change.
Gavriella’s two sisters were also born 28 years ago today. So, while all 3 of my daughters have a birthday today, only two of them turned 28, and I can’t wrap my brain around the bizarreness of this concept that they are now different ages, because Gavriella will be forever 27.
Given that half of our family has a birthday on January 14, it has always been a big day on our calendar, to be celebrated together. Two of my daughters are still celebrating their birthday today, and I don’t want this date to turn into one of dread or of darkness.
Twenty-eight years ago, our three baby girls made an appearance 10 weeks early. They were tiny, but fierce. They were fragile, but strong. They brought immense joy and love into our life and made us into a family. Nothing can ever change that, even though now there are only two. January 14 will always be a significant date for our family. It will always be a positive day, even though now it is tinged with sadness.
Today, I am torn between mourning what I have lost and celebrating what I still have. This is the new normal for me, this state of being split, with emotions running all over each other. I still have so much, but G-d, I lost so much. Gavriella was my everything; she was my sun and my moon and all of my stars. She was my heart and my soul and the oxygen in my lungs. Living without her is an enormous struggle. However, despite all of that, I would like to try and spend the day celebrating my 2 beautiful daughters who are here with us while saving space in my heart for the one who is missing. That is what Gavriella will forever be to me, “the one who is missing”; what a horrible concept that is.
Tonight, there will be a birthday dinner. There will be a cake and candles. There will be gifts that were specially commissioned and designed to ensure that Gavriella is remembered and cherished (though we need no reminder). January 14 is still a day to be celebrated, despite the empty space at the table and in our hearts.
Gavriella, I wish that you were here, but I understand why you are not. I hope that there are birthdays in heaven, and that whoever is buying you gifts knows how picky you are. I hope that somehow, you can get a glimpse of our birthday dinner tonight and see your new nephew and how your nieces have grown in your absence. I hope that you can see how much we love and miss you, how much you are still in our hearts and in our thoughts, but also how we are going to try and be okay without you. I know how important that is to you. No promises; right now, we are going to fake it till we make it. Maybe one day we will make it.
Happy birthday to the ones who are here and to the one who is missing. I love you all beyond words.