Birthday Reflections…..

I began this blog on October 3rd, but life took over and I wasn’t able to finish and upload this till today…….

Yesterday I turned 38.

A feat that humbles me and makes me reflective. I think up until a few years ago my birthdays passed without much contemplation and I took them for granted.

Not this year.

Yesterday I turned 38.

This actually hit me about a week ago. And it almost made me breathless. It’s just a surreal experience, outliving someone older than you.

But that’s just what I’ve done as of this morning.

My mentor and friend Heidi died from cancer in 2012. She died on her 38th birthday.

Yesterday I turned 38.

I’ve always been aware of death since I was a little kid. The moment I found out people die, I remember being completely devastated.

In fact, when I turned 10 years old I distinctly recall thinking, “Well, people usually die when they are two digits old. It’s just a matter of time.” (And I’m just realizing how darkly philosophical of a kid I was. Yikes!)

But I digress.

My friend and mentor Heidi was an amazing soul. A missionary kid, she was born in California but moved to Jerusalem at age 3. Then her family moved to Thailand when she was 15 and she graduated high school there. She married her college sweetheart a few years later, and they went on to teach English in Japan for a few years before settling down in Goshen, Indiana and expanding their family to include 3 boys and a girl.

Their daughter Willa was born with trisomy 18 and died 8 minutes after she was born.

If I could think of two words to describe Heidi, it would be fearless and determined. When she was 4 months pregnant with Willa, the last time I’d see Heidi, we met for coffee one afternoon when I was home for Christmas. It must have been a warmer day because she arrived on her bike, even though piles of snow were still visible at the end of sidewalks and edge of the streets.  When I asked her how she was feeling she told me she was feeling good. Even knowing Willa’s diagnosis and that she’d likely not survive, Heidi was happy. She told me that she was OK because she knew as long as Willa stayed inside her womb, she’d have what she needed to live.

And I can credit Heidi for where I am today. When I was 24 I finally decided I needed to move out on my own. My goal was to move out by the time I turned 25. And Heidi met with me privately many times to work out a plan to make that happen.

And it did!

I celebrated my 25th birthday in my new apartment in Louisville. And Heidi didn’t let the day pass without acknowledging my accomplishment. She made a giant birthday card for me, had people from my home church sign it, and sent it to me in the mail. And it hung in my room until I moved to my new apartment one year later.

Heidi helped me grow up and spread my wings.

Yesterday I turned 38.

And this year I plan to live with more intent. To try things that are new and scary. To get to know people who are different from me. To spread my wings further. 

Just as Heidi taught me.

(Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers “Learning to Fly” appears courtesy of YouTube and Bonnaroo) 

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