Today would have been my dad’s 66th birthday.
It’s been almost four years since my dad left this world unexpectedly. And while I will forever remember that Friday afternoon in June when I last saw his face, it’s his birthday that I choose to focus on and celebrate with my daughters.
My now eight-year-old was just four when her grandpa died, and she still hasn’t grasped the complexities of a day that started with her hugging her grandpa and heading to the park to play, and ended with her mom telling her he was in heaven.
What kid would be able to process that?
The first year was the hardest on all of us; but especially a little girl who adored her big, teddy bear-like grandpa and wanted to continue to have a way to communicate with him.
Close to the first Christmas, Maggie begged me to write him a note. Just something small and sweet to say that she loved and missed him and would I please help her send it. How would I get a note to heaven? I didn’t want to lie to her, but I had no clue how to explain that I didn’t have a place to mail it to.
And then I had an idea.
Could we tape it to the outside of a giant helium balloon and “send” it to heaven that way? Would it work? There was only one way to find out!
Our first attempt at note sending was magical. She wrote her sweet note and we taped it gently to the outside of the balloon. After walking in to the middle of the cul-de-sac in front of our house, she closed her eyes, made a wish and let it go. It flew straight up, over our house, and disappeared just like it was sucked up in to the sky.
A tradition was born.
We’ve sent these sweet love notes from the kids every year on his birthday. The weather has always cooperated on this beautiful afternoon in April. Off to the local party store we go and I splurge on the biggest and most obnoxious-sized helium balloons in stock. (I’ve discovered over the years that the bigger the balloons are, the better they fly).
My youngest, Katie, is old enough now to write her own notes and tape them to her balloons.
Our launch pad is now the middle of the park next door to our house. Every year, the wind carries them away – two balloons with birthday wishes, little pictures and tons of love attached to them.
There is always a little scribble on the corner of a note from me too. After all, how do I know they aren’t making their way to heaven?
P.S. Thanks, Dad, for getting the wind to kick up last year and pulling them from the tops of the trees. I was panicked for a second, but I know you are always with us.