Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the month of Pesach. For my entire life, it has also meant birthday. Both Big Brother and I were born in April, so Pesach and Nissan were inextricably linked with birthday presents and pesadik birthday cake (usually sponge cake with strawberries). Pesach has always been my favorite chag.
Last year changed all of that. My darling Liz died last Pesach. And no matter which calendar I use, the anniversary of my birth and her death are only days apart. She died the 17th of Nissan, and I was born on the 20th. My secular birthdate is April 24th, and she died on the 26th. It's something that I just can't escape.
The closer those dates come, the more aware I am just how raw my grief still is. I can't think of her without my throat closing up and burning with tears that I often have to keep inside. A month ago, I dreamt of her and woke up crying, feeling like someone had rammed their fist directly into my heart.
I hate my birthday now. I don't know how to celebrate being another year older when it also means that another year has passed since I lost someone I loved so much. How can I go out and pretend to be happy about the fact that I was given another year in this world and that someone so much more deserving than me was taken out of it? The thought of celebrating literally makes me nauseous. On the other hand, how can I not celebrate my life, when the alternative has been so starkly laid before me? Of course I am grateful to Hashem that I'm still here. But I'm also still resentful and bewildered because Liz is not.
So I've made a very simple, easy decision. For those of you in the habit of getting me birthday presents- Don't. I don't want them. Unless you can find the cure to cancer and also own a working time machine, there's no birthday wish that you can fulfill. Instead, take whatever you would have spent on me, whether it would have been dinner or drinks or books or DVDs or a pony, and donate it to Liz's memorial fund. Send it to Washington University, Elizabeth S. Schmerling Endowed Scholarship Fund, Campus Box 1082, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.
I don't need to know that people remember my birthday and are thinking of me even a miniscule fraction of how much I need to know that they remember and are thinking about Liz.