My First Shadow Birthday

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My first birthday as an “orphan”. Daddy passed away less than three weeks ago. Mama about 17 months ago. I know I’m an adult. I know I still have my parents, they are just in a different place now. In a better place. With Jesus. Oh the joy of the certain hope of that! I don’t know what I’d do without it.

And yet, this is the first time ever, in my now fifty-eight years on this earth, that I haven’t had a parent here to say “Happy Birthday!” Or to give me a hug. Or to say “I love you.”

And though I’m incredibly blessed by the love of family and friends still here with me, it is a loss. And I’m surprised how the emotions and tears keep coming. There is something so precious about a loving parent’s faithful presence and care.

There is a sense of security in knowing that someone older and wiser is always caring and concerned and watching out for you. There is a comfort in knowing that someone who has loved you your whole life is still near by and wanting the best for you.

And even when Mama lost that wisdom and caring, there was still a comfort in just being with her. And in knowing Daddy was happy when I visiting with her, and that he still knew and cared.

Four years ago today…

I cuddled on the love seat with Mama after the bath-time filled with shouting and anger, after the floor scrubbing and picking up. I cuddled close to my sweet mama and said, “Today is my birthday, Mom.”
“Oh my goodness!” she answered.

“Fifty-four years ago you had a baby girl and it was me. I was your baby and you were my mommy. I was your Sherry Lynn.”
“I never knew her,” Mom answered in a pleasant tone of voice.

But she was able to recite John 3:16 when I got her started! She hasn’t done that for months.

I told her I loved her many times during our visit and she always answered, “Thank you.”

Until I was kissing her good-bye. “Thank you for being my mommy,” I said. “You’ve been a wonderful mommy and I love you so much.”

And then she said it. She looked at me and said, “I love you, too.”
And that is my birthday gift today. Thank You, Lord!

I’m grateful I have memories. So many good ones. And I’m thankful to know that God is sovereign and He is working all things out for good. I will someday have an eternity of birthdays close to Mama and Daddy once more.

Meanwhile, my Abba Father tenderly comforts me with children who call and visit, and grandchildren who give joy just by existing, and another granddaughter who is old enough to paint a birthday picture for her “mimi” and sing Happy Birthday perfectly while sitting in my lap.

And He blesses me with an amazing husband, who understands I need to cry today. And he stays close by, protecting me and buffering the pain, with his love.

This is a birthday in the valley of shadows. But He is with me. And His rod and His staff– they comfort me.




  1. Just found your blog recently after someone shared it on Facebook. Your story sounds so much like mine, except that my 58th birthday coming up is my second one as an “orphan.” My parents too loved the Lord and left me a rich spiritual heritage. You might enjoy a column I read in the Chicago Tribune a couple of years ago by Mary Schmich called When Your Dad Dies. Thanks for your encouraging testimony of God’s grace.

  2. Happy birthday. It’s not the same as hearing it from your dear parents I’m sure. I am sixty and mine are still here. Dad is 90 and mom 86. She still knows me and for that I am thankful but she never remembers that I have been with her. I will make the 30 mile drive tomorrow to their assisted living apartment to do her hair. She will not remember that I was there but she will look in the mirror when I am gone and say, “Dad, who did my hair?” I miss her but you are right. There is a comfort in just being near her now. Thank you for your candid and oh, so comforting writings about your journey with your dear mom. It gives me hope and comfort knowing that someone else went through it and came out on the other side. May God bless and comfort as only He can.

  3. Happy Birthday a day late! I am 61 and my mom died 26 years ago and dad 18 years. Easier? Nope but our Heavenly Father is so gracious and loves us so much that it just melts into our lives and hearts. It is who we are. It is why my husband and I are caregivers of his Aunt. To honor Jesus and our parents who are not here to do so. What an awesome God we serve. And grandchildren – oh what a blessing.

  4. Thank you so much for this sharing of your heart.
    As a Volunteer Hospice Chaplain I see so many in this situation
    this warms my heart and encourages me.

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