For Rissa on her birthday

You know how summer exits slowly here? Autumn is always a bit of a surprise.

A slight change in the air. A breeze.

Dark and cooler mornings, shorter days.

A scent of earth and dampness.

Thirty years ago you were born three weeks before your due date, as if you did not want to miss any of it.

And you have always loved fall.

Some nights when I am walking while the sky is darkening, I feel you very close to me. Memories flicker all around–joy and sorrow warring in my heart.

The raw ache of missing you is a companion of sorts, unwelcome but familiar. I form a necessary truce so that I can remember all the treasure of you.

Your exuberance, your joy. Your sarcasm and humor. Your beautiful smile. Your love of people, including the little ones. Your zest for adventure. Your gift of helping others. Your kindness and strength.

How grateful I am for you. How I cherish every part of you.

This has been the craziest year–one day when all the pages are turned and the book is closed, we will sit and talk about it. How many times I have longed for your cheerful perspective, your courage and faith.

How I have missed you.

Thirty years–a milestone birthday. Most of your friends will approach it with some soberness, a realization of how quickly time is passing. Perhaps they will renew goals and make some changes, move forward with purpose.

I would love to be celebrating with you–cake and presents and outings. To watch your life unfolding, to sit quietly and listen to your heart.

I would love to know you at thirty.

Instead I am comforted that you took every breath you were meant to take. You are right now fully known and fully loved. You are safe.

So on your birthday I am remembering the beautiful gift of you. The 26 years when I could touch you and talk with you and celebrate you.

And I am moving forward in faith, one step at a time, one day at a time. Opening my heart to the future, whatever it holds.

Falling back on the grace that held you and kept you and keeps you still.

Knowing that because of God and His promises, I will know you again. I will love you forever.

Happy birthday, my little Beanie girl.