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A Special Birthday Bond

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

I have a close family. We visit with each other as often as possible, and are genuinely interested and supportive about each other’s lives. And when I say family, I don't just mean immediate family. I'm talking aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth. At the center of our family bond was my grandfather. Typical, as I suspect most families revolve around a grandparent or two. My grandfather was essentially the glue that kept the family running. Most, if not all the family gatherings revolved around him, or at the very least were motivated by his presence.

Sadly we lost my grandfather this past January. Losing him has had a deep impact on each member of the family in their own way. It was astonishing how many little traditions he had with family members. Weekly phone calls, drive-bys, Sunday breakfast, morning check-ins, soccer games, football games, dance shows, Thursday night dinners, and so forth. These were pretty common everyday things, but they were consistent. When he passed away most of them abruptly stopped, and if they didn't, there was this large void that just made the experience sadly different. They were very much unwritten traditions that are now silenced. There was a stability, a sameness, a certainty that was there one day and gone the next. If you've experienced a loss of any kind, you can probably relate to this feeling.

Far too many people have experienced loss this year with covid, and even though my grandfather didn’t die from covid, we had to deal with the effects of it. Masks and social distancing during a time of grief was difficult to say the least. As a result his children decided it was best to celebrate his life later in the year when maybe the side effects of covid had died down.

Fast forward to July of 2021 (also my grandfather's birthday month); we all gathered as a family at our old Family Reunion stomping grounds to celebrate my grandfather’s life. Covid was still thriving (unfortunately), but people had been vaccinated and we met outside with lots of fresh air and space. As corny as it sounds it was a beautiful day with lots of love and laughter. A full circle moment that really brought some closure to a lot of us.

As part of the celebration I surprised the family with two small cakes (photos below). Why two, you ask?Well, let me rewind a bit. One of the special parts of the family was my grandfather shared his birthday (July 30th) with one of his great-granddaughters.

They celebrated the day every year together for 10 years straight. It was a really special bond they had and it was fun to have a double celebration each year. No one ever thought about what it would be like when he was no longer here, and then it happened. It occured to me that his great-granddaughter had almost been conditioned (unintentionally) to share her birthday and she really didn't know any different. From her first birthday to her tenth, it was just a normal thing for her. As you can imagine when this year’s birthday was approaching the urge to celebrate was different. It wasn't any less important, it was just a new feeling. Not only did she not have her buddy next to her blowing out the candles, but we as a family didn't need to squeeze in two names during the Happy Birthday song. After a lot of thought, I knew I had to make this year really special. Not only for the family, but particularly for his great-granddaughter.

Knowing we were all going to be together I opted to have my friends over at Starry Night Bakery make two small cakes for me. The first was a celebration of life cake for my grandfather. It was simple and white. I added edible butterflies that were in shades of green to the side and top of the cake. The green represented my grandfather's Irish heritage and the butterflies are symbolic of rebirth after death.

The second cake was for the beautiful and sassy soon-to-be 11 year old. I'm not in the know about what's cool and not cool at that pre-teen age (my kiddos are still preschool age). I opted for a geode cake in her favorite blue and teal colors and added the gold rim for some birthday shimmer. Top it off with a gold mirrored Happy Birthday cake topper and it definitely screamed cool girl birthday vibes.

Celebration of Life Cake in honor of my Grandfather Birthday Cake for one cool 11 year old

I also added in a simple all glazed donut bar because I knew that would go over well with all the kiddos in the family. It was a miracle I didn't have one disappear before we sang HBD!

All in all it ended up being a really memorable and sweet celebration. We made a new tradition and reminded ourselves that even though our grandfather wasn't actually present, he will always be a part of us. Plus, I think I might have scored some cool aunt brownie points! #thatsawinforme

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