Today’s a special day for me. It’s my birthday. And for those who know me, you know that my birthday takes on National Holiday status. I start celebrating it a week in advance. I’ll tell anyone how old I am (44). I plan special things, like the mani/pedi just for me this morning and the Chinese food I’m having tonight for dinner. It’s all about me.
But it’s not a selfish, look-at-me thing, though I do tend to pretend it is. I’ve always liked celebrating my birthday, in the days before the big 2-9. Back then you want to celebrate it – you’re young, probably haven’t had kids do a number on your figure yet, still have the rest of your life ahead of you.
Then 2-9 hits, which is, of course, the precursor to The Big 3-0. All in caps. Everyone dreads 30. Why? I don’t know. I loved turning 30 – as much as I loved turning 15. And 22. And 44.
Fourteen years ago a very good friend of mine who I worked with was diagnosed with lung cancer. She never smoked a day in her life, didn’t live with smokers… no clue how she got it. Getting the diagnosis started off with, “I hope it’s not TB.” Then that got ruled out and they were looking at MS. So of course, we went with, “I hope it’s not MS.” All these acronyms.
Eventually, her options dwindled and it came down to the big “C.” And how we prayed. Then we prayed some more when it was cancer. Then we prayed it was survivable.
It wasn’t. She was 34, had two little girls and her whole life ahead of her.
So we cried. We got angry. We wrote her obituary. We planned her funeral.
“What?” you ask.
Yes. We did. Together.
Because Kathy was the one who gave me my favorite book EVAH. Jill Barnett’s Bewitching. It’s adorable and funny, and a perfect feel-good book. Kathy loved romance novels. She read them by the dozens and would pass them on to me. She helped me re-discover my love of the genre in a time of babies, and pregnancies and work… and her mortality.
I have to tell this story so you’ll understand how truly funny she is, and how she shaped my world view to allow me to write funny. When she came to my house after speaking with the funeral director she told me that she’d picked out her urn. Kinda morbid, I know, but you either have to cry or laugh. She chose to laugh.
So, I learned from her that the human body can be cremated to fit in either a six-pound urn or a ten-pound urn. She told the funeral director, (and this is verbatim) “I don’t care if you have to throw out a leg, I WILL get in a six-pound urn.”
I’m laughing as I write this, because I still remember how we ended up crying ourselves silly with laughter, the big belly-hurting kind of laugh. Tears rolling down our cheeks, breaths impossible to catch. It was so morbidly hysterical.
When you read the acknowledgements in my first (EVAH) romance novel, In Over Her Head, you’ll know who the KB is. Who my guardian angel is looking down on me. She’d be so thrilled to see Jill Barnett’s quote on my website about me. She’d be ecstatic to see the picture of Fabio hugging me. (She and I went to see him at a local book signing all those years ago.) She’d be thrilled to hold my book in her hands and be the first one in line for a signature.
She’d be thrilled to be turning 44.
So, yes, today is my birthday and I’m going to sing it from the rooftops. Okay, maybe not because I have a range of about three notes. But still, you get the idea. I always say that I don’t mind another candle on my cake… because it means I’ve been here another year.
When I eat my Chinese food tonight, I’ll have my favorite beverage (EVAH) along with it—champagne. And I’ll raise a toast to Kath and remember how I sat in the pew at her funeral, shoulders shaking, tears running down my face so much I had to hunch over so others wouldn’t see.
I wasn’t crying. I was laughing. She got in that six-pound urn.