by Debra on July 2, 2012

Sometimes you just gotta put your head down and move forward. I have danced around this post for the last two months wishing that I, that my family, wouldn’t have to face this day. But today is here and rather than spend it in bed with ivory-colored, 100 percent, 600-thread count cotton sheets pulled up over my head, I am going to celebrate Alice’s birthday with the same tenacity in which she lived her life.

I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been tears these last nine months – there have been; in fact, if tears could water my lawn, we wouldn’t be experiencing a drought. So yes, there have been buckets of tears. And the ache of missing someone so intensely I can feel her presence in the middle of the night or feel her standing alongside in the kitchen while I roll out pizza dough or when I open the door to the upstairs bedroom that was decorated in pink and purple polka-dots for a 9-year-old girl. The essence of Alice has been, and still is, in all of these places in our home. So while there is tremendous sadness of not having her here, I find myself deeply grateful.

Grateful for a dark-haired, dark-eyed little 4-year-old girl who bounced into our lives more than 16 years ago full of life, full of energy, full of orneriness, full of joy. And while Alice could be vexing and contrary on some of her worst days, she also loved her nieces and nephews deeply – her brother, dad, mama and her boyfriend even more. She knew how to wrap everyone around her little finger, batting those long eyelashes and flashing a smile that made you forget you were angry at something she’d just done.

I am grateful for the memory of the little 6-year-old, skipping through the Walmart parking lot on a dark fall night, hair in pigtails, wearing a pink shirt, dark blue bib overalls and tennis shoes – singing at the top of her lungs, ‘This kiss, this kih-ih-ihss!’ – she loved Faith Hill and she didn’t give a hoot about the people who stopped and glared – ‘This kiss, this kih-ih-ihss!’ – she wailed from her tiny body. To this day, I cannot drive past a Walmart without that night swiftly flooding my memories – time stops and I’m watching her once again.

Alice shared my love for fancy sunglasses and I’d bought her a pair of Dior’s for her birthday last year; we would be seeing her in August so I didn’t get them mailed. And then I forgot to bring them with us on that trip. And those sunglasses were left sitting on our dining room table as a reminder to get them shipped. Then Alice was admitted to the hospital for what was to be the last time. I sent them to her mom so they could be delivered to the hospital and when Alice opened them, she said to her dad, ‘Take a picture of me and send it to Oma – I want her to know how much I love them!’ And this is the picture I’ve had on my phone wallpaper since that day. It makes me laugh at the girl being her goofy self, even while being hooked up to a machine that was breathing for her.

Death has removed Alice’s physical body – the ‘physical-ness’ of her – she is not here; but the essence of Alice, of who she was? The memories, the celebrations, the holidays, the experiences – death does not win – because the essence of Alice still shines bright. And nothing can ever take that from us, from me. This child was, and still is, deeply loved.

Today would have been her 21st birthday and if she were here I’d want to celebrate; she’d probably request a dinner out but I’d make dessert. I researched fancy birthday cakes, then cupcakes, ice cream or cheesecake – all of which she would have loved. But I decided on pie. A blueberry pie for a nearly 4th of July girl. And you simply can’t turn 21 and not have champagne – Alice loved pink so it’s pink champagne for the birthday girl.

Alice didn’t want a funeral, didn’t want people standing around crying – she wanted a big party, with friends, family, food, fun and games – and that’s exactly what she received. We set up a phone line so people could call in and leave messages; the family gathered old photos and video footage. The Professor and I are privileged to have the resources to pull all of that information together and create images that capture Alice’s life – we’re sharing it with you for the first time. The plan is to leave the video here for the next couple of weeks and then remove it. I’m not sure if I’ll re-post the video every birthday or not – I know there will be tears but it’s okay, she’s okay – I believe that will all my heart.

Happy Birthday Alice – you are loved!