Thursday, January 28, 2010

He Would Have been 35 Today

If Leif had lived, today would be his 35th birthday. It's still hard for me to realize he won't be coming for dinner, that we can't take him out, won't get him a present. It's the second birthday since his death, and it all still seems so wrong that my beautiful son isn't alive.

It's hard to look at the photos of the last year of his life and see how he deteriorated physically, how sad he looked, how much weight he gained. He looked ten years older than he was, and it happened so fast. What terrible things depression and an unhealthy lifestyle can do to a person!

Last year in January I posted a lot of photos of the birthdays in his life. This year, just today, one of him as a baby with me, and one on that last birthday two years ago. That's the span of his life, in those two photos, but there was so much in between, so much adventure and so much heartache.

Today I will go to the cemetery. Peter W., his dad, says Leif isn't there, and of course, he's right. Leif was a living, breathing, thinking human being, not a small pile of powdered bones, but it's symbolic. Where else can I go?

I was participating in a focus group today, a group of "senior citizens" who all participate in music. It was for a research project about how music affects one's quality of life and it is focused on seniors. I had never met the others in the group and it was interesting to see how they spoke about the role of music in their lives. We all talked about the joy of it.

But there was something I didn't say. Music does bring joy, but it can also bring sorrow. Music is not only full of it's own emotion, but we associate many pieces of music with things in our lives, and some of those are sad. I've already written about how some pieces make me cry so I don't listen to them any more, and how hard it is to sing some of them. One of the choruses I sing with has chosen to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the musical "Carousel." I loved this piece when I was a young teen. I purchase the sheet music with my allowance and I still have it. It's normally a beautiful, uplifting song. But not now. Now I find myself thinking of Leif and how many years he walked on with hope in his heart, hoping he wouldn't walk alone, but his hopes were dashed and he did walk alone. I know the song is probably referring to God being with you but even that, it seems Leif did not have, at least not that he felt it. I have a hard time singing that song because I know there are people who do feel alone, so along, and hope is hard to keep.

Two years ago, on his last birthday, Leif was here for dinner with us, actually the night before because of his work schedule. We had a good visit, but I was a little sad that I didn't get to make his favorite foods for him because he was trying out the Atkins diet again. I took it as a hopeful sign that he wanted to lose weight, and we made filet mignon for him. Maybe things would have been different if he hadn't lost his GI BIll stipend in February, taking away his last hope of being able to pay his bills (though he didn't tell us that). Maybe hope would not have deserted him.

How glad I am that I took pictures that night he was here, the last birthday I would ever see him.

Happy birthday, Leif, wherever you are.

The top photo was taken on January 27, 2008 at Leif's 33rd birthday dinner in Sun City Center, Florida. The second one is Leif with his mother, Jerri, on March 14, 1975. He was six weeks old. It was in Manhattan, Kansas.

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