Shayna was born 18 years ago today on a bitterly cold day in January 2000. In a way it seems like a lifetime ago, and in a way, it was. It’s 14º as I roll out of bed this morning. It was 50º two days ago. The roads are a mixture of black ice, regular ice, snow, and slush, but I have to get out for a walk today. It’s Shayna’s birthday and we connect while I’m walking. I’ll risk taking a spill on the ice to have that time with her. At least the sun is shining. I listen to some music, think about my Shayna and shed some frozen tears.
I get in my 7 miles and head for home. Tywana’s up and making pancakes for breakfast in honor of Shayna. We’re going out for pizza tonight since that was Shayna’s favorite dinner.
Five of Shayna’s friends want to come over to the house to celebrate her birthday with us. Taylor, Amanda, Truc, Caroline, and Olivia all come over. These are the friends Shayna made during her just two years at Lakota schools. The fact that these girls even remember Shayna is impressive. The fact that they continue to honor her and us by coming to our house on her angelversary dates and her birthdays amazes me. They bring presents. Truc brings an ice cream cake. They sit around the kitchen tables sharing stories of their time with Shayna and telling us about their plans for colleges. I assume this will be the last birthday we celebrate like this as next year they’ll all be scattered to various colleges. As they make their plans, I wish each of them a long, prosperous healthy life and I am grateful for the circle of friends Shayna had and that she continues to be an influence in their lives.
Tywana, Kayla, and I head out for pizza, but Pies & Pints has nearly an hour wait. So, we head over to Bar Del Mar for burgers instead. Shayna would approve of a cheeseburger.
Why should today be any different than any of the other 934 days since Shayna crossed over? Why do I torture myself more on the angelversaries and birthdays? Today, i reflect on the fact that she’d be 18. I hear her telling me “I’m an adult now, Daddy.” I think about her plans to go to OSU and be a veterinarian. Would those have changed by now? Would she still be my sweet baby girl or would she have turned surly and distant? There is no way of knowing. I’ve been doing counseling the last several weeks where the counselor has been using a lot of techniques that have me envision things that happened, like her passing, in a different way. He also took me through an exercise where I was to envision something that would have made her passing less shocking. We work out that if I had gotten a terminal diagnosis, it wouldn’t have been shocking. So, he has me run the tape back in my mind to two years before. I get the diagnosis. Now I know. Now her death isn’t shocking. So, he asks me “How does that feel?” “No better.” I tell him. The problem is now over the last two years of her time here I’m constantly thinking about her possibly dying. I’m mourning her before she’s gone. We don’t let her play volleyball. She probably doesn’t even go to public school. She doesn’t live her life full out the way she did until the absolute very end. We modify the scenario. Instead fo two years, I get the diagnosis two days before. “Is this better?” he asks. To appease him, I say “Oh yeah. That’s better.” The truth is no scenario plays out any better. I tell him about one of my favorite movies “The Butterfly Effect”. In the movie, a guy finds out he has the ability to go back in time and he does so to try to prevent a tragedy. Each time he prevents the tragedy, an unintended consequence comes up. Shayna had a pretty severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. She was on medications that were very powerful and had potentially devastating side effects. She was in remission. But, there were never any guarantees the medications would continue to work or that side effects wouldn’t kick in. Even when I try to imagine Shayna still here with us, at 18, I wonder what her life would be like now and what it would be like going forward. There were no guarantees it would have gone the way I wanted it to go.
I recall a reading I had with Susanne Wilson the year after Shayna passed. She told me that Shayna had a 16th birthday party on the Other Side. I imagine as we are celebrating her here, she’s celebrating with her Pops and her other relatives over there. I know she’s looking in on us. As much as this sucks, and it sucks big time, I trust that it’s for the best and I hold onto the knowledge that it cannot and will not last forever. Nothing can keep us separated. Happy Birthday, baby.