October 11th was quickly approaching. It would have been Mom's 66th birthday. She always loved to celebrate birthdays and they were always a time for the family to be together. So, what were we to do this year? Ignore it? Have some kind of memorial ritual or something? Where would we go? What would we say? What would we do?
After much deliberation, we decided it was time again to go to visit Mom's gravesite. It had been a few months since we had done that. So, we decided to make the hour and a half journey to Bushnell that Sunday. It was a hot day that felt like summer. We arrived to the area where her site was, and proceeded to her marker. Joy and I prepared the fresh flowers and made two small arrangements and placed one on each side of the tombstone, leaving space so you could still read the inscription. It read, "Elizabeth Milner, Oct. 11, 1942-Dec. 4, 2008." "Our Beloved Mimi, Forever in Our Hearts." I remembered back to when I made the call as to what the stone would say. I could hardly get the words out of my mouth that day. I never could have imagined the feeling that would be produced when having to order your own mom's epitaph. But there it was, right in front of us. So harsh, so real, so final, but it looked beautiful with the etched cross on it and the flowers in front.
Dad and Patrick stood and watched as we kept fussing with the flowers so as to make them perfect. We finished off the arrangement with a small birthday balloon. Then the 3 kids each released a balloon into the sky and we watched as it flew higher and higher, closer and closer to Heaven. The girls still held on tightly to the shell in each of their hands. Mimi had always taken the girls to find shells every summer at the beach. It had become one of their most favorite things to do with her. Now it remains as one of their most fond memories. They would find so many and always wanted to keep them all. They would return back to the condo with cups full of them and would wash them off carefully, one by one. And then, at the end of the trip, evey year, Mimi would always have a few speical shells that she had picked out to give the girls from her own findings. These were the ones to be cherished most, the ones from her own personal collection. But this year, Mimi was not with us at the beach, and she could not bring the girls a special shell, so I thought it would be fitting that Julia and Avery bring a special shell to her. So, they each picked out a favorite from their assortment and brought them to Mimi. They placed them on top of her stone and then I felt satisfied. She would have liked that..........flowers, balloons, and shells. "There," I said, somewhat outloud and somewhat to myself. "Happy Birthday, Mimi, Happy Birthday."