Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. I woke up thinking of her, wondering how we might celebrate if she was still alive. Fifty years ago, in January 1972, she discovered she was pregnant with me, the weight of that insight surely a burden on her 18-year-old heart.
Welcome to adulthood!
Now you’re a mother.
I thought of her throughout the day, remembering birthdays of the past – some memories bringing a smile to my face, other memories a bit more wistful in my recollection. Many years we were apart, living states away. Some years we weren’t speaking. Our relationship was complicated, to say the least, yet her birthday was always a treasured space in my heart.
The last birthday we celebrated together was five years ago, her body too weak from her debilitating cancer to leave the house in celebration. I came to her, colored beads in hand, and declared, “If I can’t take you to Mardi Gras, I’ll bring Mardi Gras to you!”
A lot has happened these past five years and it hurts my heart to think of all the memories made that don’t have a sliver of her smile or the bellow of her laughter lingering in the distance.
And yet… I still feel the need to celebrate her on her special day.
So I bundled up against the chill of the wind and went out to complete a random act of kindness. For her. For me.
How do you celebrate the birthday of a loved one who has passed away?
You buy a birthday cake for a stranger instead.
I drove to Walmart first, remembering the time her purse was stolen right out of her cart and all the hijinks that ensued to retrieve her purse from the thief (Yes, she eventually got her purse back. Lesson learned – you don’t mess with my mom and her purse.) It made me smile recalling that story in my mind and I could almost feel my mom’s embrace reaching across the distance.
I was told by a department manager that the bakery had closed hours before, so I wouldn’t be able to pay for someone else’s order. While that was disappointing, I didn’t let that deter me from my mission. My mom deserved a cake in her memory. I felt that whisper on my heart to see if Kroger’s bakery was open, so I returned to my car and started driving in that direction. Yes, it added extra time to my trip with the unexpected delay, but a lesson I learned long ago is sometimes delays are perfect timing in disguise.
As I entered Kroger and started walking to the back of the store, I saw a display that stopped me in my tracks.
I literally laughed out loud. What were the chances of me finding a kiosk with dozens of cakes, all marked to $5 each on the 5th anniversary of my mom’s last birthday with me?
It was absolutely meant to be.
Using notebook paper and a pen, I wrote a note and added a $5 bill to the bottom. I then taped the note and the money on a cake with the hopes of a stranger would share in the celebration of my mom.
Today I stopped back into Kroger to pick up a few things and peeked at the cake display out of curiosity.
My cake was no longer there.
If you are reading this post today and happen to be the person who received this act of kindness, thank you for being a part of the joy in celebrating and remembering my mom. If she was here today, I’m sure she would squeal so loudly, clapping her hands together, shouting, “That was so wicked cool!”
Happy Birthday, Mom. Even though you are no longer here, you still bring joy to others in the most unconventional ways!