I've been trying to figure out how I feel about it for a while now, which is funny because I'm not really one who's ever cared much about age. My friends range in age from twentysomething to fiftysomething, and age means absolutely nothing within the context of those relationships. So the rational part of me says "it's just a number. It's really no different than any other birthday and besides, most of your friends are already 40-plus so get over it. Boo yah, 40. Woohoo."
But... 40. It's hard to fully wrap my brain around that number.
Don't misunderstand me: my thirties have been hard. Actually, hard isn't a powerful enough word. A more appropriate one would be "torturous." I began the decade on bed rest with Isaac after suffering a potentially disastrous subchorionic bleed. (So you don't have to look it up, that means that a small corner of the placenta tore, which resulted in gushing blood and, eventually, a very large blood clot that could have killed him. Fortunately, of course, that did not happen, but I spent months agonizing over the possibility that it could.) After he was finally born, we had a calm expanse of months before I got pregnant with Brady at 32, and then 20 weeks later, well, you know what happened then. My life, my outlook, my everything was forever changed when I found out Logan could very well die.
Then there were the endless trips to and from the hospital, the loneliness, the exhaustion that goes along with having three very young children at home by myself and the ongoing fear that God would not respond the way I desperately wanted Him to respond to the biggest prayer I'd ever prayed.
And then, when I was 34, horror became my reality as my innocent, sweet, long-suffering little boy drifted from my arms and into God's on that rain-soaked February morning. At first I was numb, but then the sadness, the anger, the fury besieged my heart in a way I didn't see coming. It broke me into more pieces that I could ever count and I couldn't fathom ever feeling like myself ever again. And I wasn't sure I wanted to.
Fortunately, very slowly and with no small of resistance from me (because, well, anger), God knit the pieces back together again. I think sometimes those pieces were re-fused in different places, because when I think of my heart, I don't see it as a smooth piece of fabric, rather as a patchwork quilt comprised of numerous kinds of material and many converging threads of varying color and strength. Although it's been re-constructed with care, it has weak spots, and if those spots are pulled or pushed too aggressively, I can feel the stitches tear away all over again.
So given that history, you'd think I'd be eager to leave my thirties far behind me in the rearview mirror. But I'm not. The thing is, Logan won't exist in my forties. He won't be there to help blow out the candles or to tease me about my advancing age. Of course, none of that is new: he's been gone for nearly six years and his absence is a painful daily reality. And my birthdays are among the most acutely painful of those days.
But in my mind, when 39 melts into 40 on Thursday afternoon, I'll be leaving him behind. And I don't know what to do with that. I know that I can't stop aging; I'll turn 40 and then, God willing, 41 and 42 and 43. Time will keep passing and the wrinkles will keep forming and I'll keep missing him.
And no matter how fervent my prayers become, he'll keep not being here and I'll keep having to cope with the reality that one of my biggest fans is absent.
But you know something? I bet he'd want me to celebrate anyway. He'd want me to dance and talk and eat cake and smile. So though I so wish that he could be part of my forties memory bank in a tangible way, I know that he cannot. And I pray that though he won't be here for number 40, he'll be dancing with me anyway, in whatever way he can, and that though I won't be able to touch him with my fingertips, I'll feel him within my heart.