Birthday before Christmas

Yesterday would have been my daughter’s 23rd birthday.


Yesterday was the 23rd birthday of my daughter Anisha. Only she wasn’t there to celebrate – at least not physically. So it was left to us – the people who loved her. We organised a birthday party – falling just before Christmas, we always wanted to make her birthday special.

A local vicar gave us a hall space near a tube station and we invited people way back in September because it was a Tuesday and might be hard for people to get to. On the other hand, we figured, her friends might be home for Christmas.

The logistics were a bit up and down. We heard the week before that the hall had been double booked so we had to find another one. The queues for CostCo were immense for the food and drink. We had no idea how many people were coming as a lot of the invitations were word of mouth from friend to friend and my mum went down with Covid. My partner and I struggled with the projector because technology is not our strongest suit and had to call in the cavalry in the form of daughter three.

But we figured as long as we were there it didn’t matter. I got t-shirts of some of the bands daughter one loved for her siblings and we brought guitars for people to sing. Several of her friends have written songs or other things for her.

As the day approached, I could feel myself tensing up. The approach to such days is always hard. I had bad dreams, my partner couldn’t sleep, I was snappy with people for no good reason, every day was a struggle to get up. I made daughter one a card the night before, as I always did, sending her so much love wherever she is, somewhere back in space and time. Doing these things and campaigning are the only ways left to look after her and I will never stop being her mum.

I woke up on Tuesday and it felt like we were back at the beginning again. It felt like we were preparing for her funeral and re-running it. It would be the same people. I had written a short speech similar to the one I read at the funeral. But what can you do? You can’t ignore the day. It lies inside you however much you distract yourself, waiting to overwhelm you. We have to celebrate daughter one, even if the sadness is so immense that it knocks you down every time you try to get back up.

She wouldn’t want us to be endlessly sad, of course. But sadness is a fact. Sadness cannot be bypassed or wished away. It simply has to be endured. But it can also co-exist with joy. Being with friends and family remembering her brings such swinging emotions, but it is the only way and it is, as only son says, what she deserves. Aged nine, he wrote after her death: “Anisha was a truly spectacular person – smart, funny and caring. She was always there for you and never would not be. She is loved no matter what. Her love is endless. She is an immortal and that’s what she deserves.”

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