Today is Manny’s birthday. He would have been 31.
I love birthdays. If you know me, you know this: I absolutely love birthdays. (Especially when it’s my own!), but I think birthdays, in general, are pretty awesome. Sixteen years ago I realized just how very precious they are. You’re never promised a new day, yet alone a whole new year. When a birthday rolls around, you have to honor it. You have to celebrate your day and all of the hope that your new year offers. If not for yourself, than at the very least for all of those souls (& their loved ones) who wish they could blow out their own candles just one more time. Birthdays are a blessing, a gift that the Universe bestows on only some. They deserve to be cherished and filled with as much love, chocolate laughter, silliness, gratitude, and life we can muster.
I woke up today thinking about Manny. And about birthdays. I remembered just how much I love celebrating Manny’s birthday with him. I loved baking his cake— chocolate with vanilla frosting…and as many sprinkles as the cake could hold. I loved selecting his birthday card (A task I always take seriously. The card is my favorite part of any gift. A great card says as much of love and thanks and friendship as you can put into words. Selecting the right card is essential. Finding the right words even more so. ) I loved spending the day with Manny. I loved celebrating him, and seeing him smile, and hearing him laugh. It’s been a very long time since I have been able to do any of this; I remembered it all today. Not in a sad way that makes me think of what I have lost, but in that gentle way that makes me smile and realize the great gift I had in my life for 11 years: Manny.
I spent some time thinking of ways I could appropriately honor him. I may have even sent up a little prayer asking him what he thought would suffice. Manny answered. Of this I am completely sure because out of nowhere, I heard his voice: Just have fun! Do what makes you happy. Spend time with people you love. Just like that, my big brother sent me his birthday message.
His birthday now, is not only a day on which I can remember him and our many moments together, but a day on which I can honor Life and chose to live it. Completely. And I did. I ran really great Christi run. I read an amazing book that I simply can’t put down (April 1865). I shared cookies I’d baked with friends (peanut butter and chocolate—yum!). I asked Ylaria to give him a big hug for me. I laughed a lot and hugged friends too. I noticed the sky. I called abuela just to say “Hi” and “I love you.” I went out to dinner with my sisters. We didn’t talk about it really, but we all knew why we’d made a special effort to be together tonight. And, on the way home, we played Bon Jovi and sang “Livin on a Prayer” at the top of our lungs. Manny was there for all of it.
Happy Birthday, Manny. We love you.