Two years ago, we wished my mother happy birthday as she slipped in and out of consciousness. Next to her bed so she could see it should she awake, I put a large helium balloon tied onto a yellow ribbon. A transparent “window” gave a view into a springtime garden. With a backdrop of greens, pinks, yellows, and violets an April garden might hold, a banner displaying the words “happy birthday” in calligraphic script stretched across the blue of the sky, held at each end by a butterfly. For many years, she had worn a necklace of tiny gold links; at the center of the chain, a delicate lacy butterfly was suspended.
On a grey, blustered day last year, I put another balloon next to my mother in hono(u)r of her birthday; placed by her gravestone rather than at the head of a hospital bed.
Among the grey of granite and marble with clouds hanging low, with the air filled with chill and sorrow, the balloon, dancing with the wind, was a bright spot of colo(u)r.
Today she would have been 84; I wore her necklace and filigreed butterfly earrings as I had on the day we laid her to rest next to my father.
Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of her death; I will buy a brightly colo(u)red helium balloon tied to a yellow ribbon. In the park, I will let go of the string that binds the balloon to me, to the earth. I will watch it sail upwards, dancing on the wind, until it is a tiny speck of colo(u)r against the backdrop of the sky.
Happy birthday, Mom, two years on.