Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What it Means to Have a "Second" Birthday

July 19 has a special meaning in my family. My beloved grandmother was born on this day in 1909. She was born on a sheep farm to immigrant parents. Her parents came from Germany and Austria, and were very happy to be Americans. Her name was Grace, and her life was not easy. Her father made the children leave home once they had their 13th birthdays. She went and lived with her aunt and finished school. She became a teacher and worked in a tuberculosis sanatorium until her marriage. She had three children, her eldest was my mother. She loved to sew, knit, and crochet. I was her first grandchild, and she loved to teach me her crafts. She gardened and had a green thumb like nobodies business. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early thirties, in a time when treatment was in its early stages. The cancer slowly spread through her body, but she fought like the most valiant warrior until she was 79. When she passed, I was in the midst of a very difficult pregnancy. I had miscarried one twin child, while on bedrest holding onto the second twin. Gram wanted in the worst way to last to see this baby. She died 2 1/2 months before my beautiful baby girl was born--- on the day that was my grandparents' wedding anniversary. I named my baby Katherine Anne, which means "Pure Grace." My daughter has grown to become a strong, independent, beautiful businesswoman; who also loves to knit.

Forty years ago today, that same Gram welcomed a baby granddaughter who's name is Elizabeth. She has wild red hair, big blue eyes and is the mother of two beautiful little boys. She lives on a farm, where her boys have learned to place eggs under their broody hen and welcome new chicks each spring. Just this morning, they hatched a new crop of Monarch butterflies.

And seventeen years ago today, seven years after Gram passed, when I was 35 years old; I got up in the morning and while getting ready to go to work, I had a heart attack. I had a job I adored that kept me traveling all over the US. I was speaking at national conferences, and testifying before state legislatures. I had a boy, aged 11, and my girl, aged 7. I also had a husband who was in a downward spiral of mental illness.

My story is not unlike anybody who might read this post. Nobody goes through life without difficult periods. Nobody. Trying very hard not to sound "sappy", July 19 is a day that I consider my second birthday. Because on this day, seventeen years ago, as the medical personnel went into overdrive all around me; I made a decision. I thought about my babies, and how much they needed a healthy parent. I thought about my Gram, and how hard she fought for her life, for so long. And I thought about how every day is a choice we make.

I worked hard to get well. I made some very difficult choices about my marriage and my career, and did a U-turn in my life. I have been remarried for 9 1/2 years now. My ex-husband is remarried, and I was a guest of honor at his wedding (with a corsage and everything.) The children are beautiful, productive adults who work in careers that are their passion. I am blessed with a loving family, and many, many caring friends. For sixteen years, families in my small community have entrusted their most precious children into my care and classroom for nine months of their lives.

My first birthday was the result of a choice my parents made. My second birthday was a choice that I made, and continue to make every day. On this, my seventeenth second birthday; my wish is for all of you. I wish that you will pause for a moment to feel gratitude for the many blessings that we all receive. And, I wish that you will remember that this, and every day, is a choice you can make. You may choose to make this a new day in your new life, just as I have.

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