“Eat the damn cake.” Those are the words that keep running through my mind, I alternate between smiling and crying. Justin’s birthday is next week, he would have been 28. Birthdays are so hard, they get no easier. You learn to stop fighting the sadness and allow it to take its path, go with it, see what revelation sorrow will bring to your heart.
Justin’s birthday almost always fell inside of Lent, and the boy could keep a good Lent. On rare occasions his birthday would fall within his spring break and he would be home for his birthday. Justin had an appreciation for home baked goods, he loved cookies and treats, but he would frequently abstain from all desserts during Lent. He fretted one year to his spiritual director that since he would be home for his birthday, I would most likely make him a cake and what should he do, he did not want to break his fast, he did not want to offend me. The very wise Franciscan friar told him to “eat the damn cake.” Having met said friar, I can hear him saying that with his great sense of humor. I can remember Justin telling me the story, after Lent of course, and laughing with him. I didn’t make him a cake knowing his Lenten fast, we may have had a nice dinner, but no cake.
A cake, such a simple thing. I don’t remember the cakes we did have, I only remember the ones we didn’t. Funny what the grief brain latches onto and won’t let go. It is the same with the bag of frozen strawberries. I usually go strawberry picking in June and freeze some berries for Christmas. I had picked berries that June of 2010, it was a huge splurge for our grocery budget. I carefully froze some of them to make a strawberry something at Christmas time. I remember finding the strawberries in the freezer that December of 2010, Justin had only been dead for weeks. How I wished I had used them when he was home for the last time in August of 2010. I wish I had those days back, one last moment, one last hug. And cake, we would have had cake. And strawberries.
I am going to take the words of the wise friar to heart. We will have cake for Justin’s birthday. He loved old cookbooks, maybe I will pick a recipe from an old cookbook and indulge our shared love for recipes and the stories behind them. The same for the strawberries, I haven’t been back to the strawberry fields since Justin’s death, too many memories of moments not shared. Maybe I will go this year, get lost among the berries, make peace with them.
I hope I never forget the friar’s words. To never take for granted that my loved ones will be home ever again, to always take time to make a memory, to take a picture with my heart, to eat the damn cake.