46: Happy Birthday to Me

46: Happy Birthday to Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Happy Birthday to Me

Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one.

~Lauren Raffo

It was 7 a.m. The elderly man lay propped up in the hospital bed in his small apartment. His gold-silver hair lay softly against the pillow and his blue eyes looked enormous in his thin face. This man who was my father knew today would be his last birthday—his 88th.

I stood in the bathroom just off his bedroom combing my hair and preparing for the day. My mother lay in her twin bed a few feet from Daddy. Exhausted from caring for and worrying about him, she still slept.

Suddenly I heard Daddy singing. He had always enjoyed his birthday and had fun with it. His voice was weak and I strained to hear him. Tears sprang to my eyes as I made out the words: “happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me.” With God’s help I put a smile on my face, walked to his bedside, and listened to him finish the song. Surely, if he had the courage to sing, I could muster the courage to smile.

And he did enjoy his last birthday, surrounded by his family. A week later, on his and my mother’s 52nd wedding anniversary, the angels took him home. My frail little mother, my teenaged daughter, and I stood at his bedside, held his hands, and sang old, familiar hymns as he closed his eyes in this world and opened them in the next. At the funeral the minister said we “sang him into heaven.”

My father taught me many things, including how to throw a baseball like a boy, drive a tractor, and walk like a lady. He taught me to face obstacles head-on and to embrace each day and be thankful for it. But the greatest lesson I ever learned from him was summed up on that morning as he lay on his deathbed and sang “happy birthday to me” for the last time.

~Verna Wood

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