Today was Steph's birthday.
We talked about her laugh, her jokes, and her antics. It was a great way to spend her day, even though she couldn't be with us. It's hard to believe she's only been gone 4 days. Seems longer. She was sick for so long.
Last Sunday, as Guy and I were at ArtTrails with Wayne and Kathy, Dave called to tell me that Steph wanted to see me to say goodbye. We had just limped back to our motel on a spare tire after a blowout, and it would be at least two hours before repairs would get us on the road, and another two to travel. We rushed. There is no feeling like the feeling that you might miss your last chance.
When we got there, we slipped into her room as dim pink light filtered through the drawn curtains. Her mama directed us toward some chairs, and we sat, not sure of what to do. Prompted by her mom, I took Stephie's hand, and her eyes flickered open as she whispered, "hi", then fell right back to sleep. We thought we might just leave so she could rest, but then she opened her eyes and spoke to us.
I asked if she was scared. No, she said, just anxious to be out of pain. Was she excited to see what was coming next? Yes, she supposed. I asked if she would say hi to my mom for me. "Is there anything you want me to tell her?" she asked, but for all the millions of times I had wanted to tell my mom something, I couldn't think of a thing in that moment.
"My birthday is this week," she said after a while.
"I know, I guess you won't be wanting my present," I said.
"I always love your presents." she smiled.
I had thought about it, about her birthday and what I would have wanted to give her, but there is nothing I could have given her that she would not be leaving behind, so I said, "Can I sing to you?"
"I'd like that," she answered.
"What do you want to hear?"
I began softly with the only song that came to mind; the song I sang to Natalie as I labored with her, and what I sing to her now when she is sad.
"Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you,
sweet dreams that leave your worries far behind you,
but in your dreams, whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.
Say nighty-night and kiss me,
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
while I'm alone and blue as can be,
dream a little dream of me."
All through the song she closed her eyes and smiled, and at the end whispered her thanks. She was so tired then, that we said goodbye.
We had pink cupcakes tonight. She would have liked that. It was her signature color. We sang the birthday song, and had one of the kids blow out the matchstick we had improvised into a birthday candle.
I don't suppose anyone made a wish.