Royal Birthday

By Patti Dansereau — Mar 9, 2016 3:30pm

According to Google they can be called your  ‘Golden Birthday’, ‘Grand Birthday’, ‘Lucky Birthday’, ‘Champagne Birthday’ or ‘Star Birthday’.  ‘Royal Birthday’ can be found in Urban Dictionary.  When your age lands on the date you were born has many names but in our family we know it mostly as your ‘Royal Birthday’.

Yesterday would have been Bernadette’s Royal Birthday, turning 8 on the 8th of March.  It can be hard to know how to mark such a day that at one time was looked forward to with joyful anticipation.  Marking her birthday every year from now on will be more difficult but this one especially because it reminds us of her unfulfilled dreams and hopes, even if that dream was just a special ‘Royal Birthday’ party with friends that would then turn into a special memory.  But we keep reminding ourselves as well that Bernadette is now living a life so far beyond her wildest dreams and anticipations that missing this one with us will be for her no more painful than missing her first dental appointment.

Even so, we couldn’t just let the day pass as if March 8th didn’t mean anything special to us because it does.  It is oneof the special days that changed our lives forever and like all such special/life changing days, it needs to be remembered in a special way.

We were hoping to spend the birthday supper with either family or friends but the flu hit our house hard with Johanna coming down with it on Friday and Marc on Sunday.  Not knowing how long they’d take to recover and knowing that the little girls and I could come down with it at any time made it difficult to even think about how we would mark Bernadette’s Royal birthday.

Joseph came to our rescue in his usual gentle and non-assuming way.  He told us Monday that he planned on coming home for supper on Tuesday because he knew it was a very special day for us.  I don’t know why, but just his deciding to do that and knowing that Tuesdays are Johanna’s day off and that she’d be home for supper was enough for Marc and I to know that Bernadette’s birthday wouldn’t go by without it being special in some way.  And in the end I would go so far as to say the day went just as Bernadette would have liked because the most important thing to her was to have her family around.

When we’d sit down to supper she’d always look around the table and list those who were missing knowing her family was not complete until everyone was present.  95percent of the time it meant Paul because by then he’d moved out.  Last night I went through Bernadette’s routine and imagined her listing off Paul and Christina and Ruth as well as Meme and Pepe.  Seems ironic that nobody missing would be so important to her and now she’s the one who will forever be missing and we’re the ones who will feel it most acutely that our family will forever be incomplete.

We started the day going to town to buy Bernadette some flowers and visit her grave, just Catherine, Zoe and I.  Catherine picked out a lovely pink Orchid.  It was cute to see Zoe trying to carry it from the store to the car.  Was a little worried she wouldn’t relinquish it when it was time, but she did.   Right from the store we went to the cemetery and spent a little time there, none of us were in a hurry to leave.  Catherine even went around and tidied up some of the other graves where plants or statues and trinkets were knocked over.

Then we went grocery shopping for the ingredients to make Bernadette’s favorite meal.  Over the years the kids tastes change and so do their birthday dinner choices, but obviously that won’t be the case with Bernadette so for the next ten years we’ll be having breaded chicken and baby carrots on March 8th.  Last night we changed it up a little and had loaded baby potatoes because Catherine was convinced Bernadette would love them if she ever had a chance to try them – heck they had cheese, bacon, and sour cream, three of her favorite foods on them, what was not to like!  The other motive too was so Joseph wouldn’t go back to his roommate and tell him he went home for a home-cooked meal and we had “Kraft Dinner” again – which is what happened on Sunday.

After supper we all went downstairs and had a movie night.  Catherine has been studying dolphins and whales and how humpback whales are now an endangered species so we watched…… Star Trek IV:  The Journey Home.  Not exactly a movie Bernadette would have picked, but we still have to be reasonable and think of everyone else in the family.  No doubt had Bernadette been here the movie choice would have been different and we would all have been quite happy to watch it with her.

In the end it was a peaceful day.  We were blessed with two calls; one from Marc’s parents and one from my sister and one email from a friend.   Canuck Place has sent a card the past two years as well which is very special to us and sat on the mantle where birthday cards are usually displayed for a week.  I tried very hard not to focus on the fact that the rest of the mantle was missing the birthday cards that would otherwise have crowded it.  It’s funny how for Marc and I just having Bernadette remembered was more important than anything else.  I found it interesting too that at the end of the evening with the little girls in bed and the big kids gone, I felt the exact same physical and emotional drain as I do at the end of the day with every family birthday we celebrate.  It was actually a welcome feeling because it meant that I’d given my all to make the day special for everyone present.  It was a blessing too; it helped me to see that being emotionally drained in a good way was a sign that I haven’t lost site of one of the most important things in my life – to live for my family.  And Bernadette’s absence constantly reminded me of another – that we’re living for the day when we’ll all be together in heaven and living life far beyond all our own dreams and anticipations.



By Fr. David Purcell C.Ss.R.

Hey thanks for this. The way you write helps me to feel like I am there in Spirit on this Royal Day!

By Dani

I’ve never heard of a “Royal Birthday” or any of those other terms you used. That’s a really lovely idea. I’m glad you all had a really special day.

By jolene
This line says it all… you have such a gift with words Patti.
“Bernadette’s absence constantly reminded me of another – that we’re living for the day when we’ll all be together in heaven and living life far beyond all our own dreams and expectations.”

By Mary Anne N.
Thanks again for sharing your special times with us.

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