Tuesday, September 01, 2020

We celebrated Nigel’s birthday

This past Saturday, we celebrated Nigel’s birthday, the first one since he died. It was a good day, all things considered, and one he would’ve enjoyed. But it was also fraught. Under the circumstances, celebrating it was an important thing to do.

It was only a short time after Nigel died that I decided I wanted to have a birthday party for him this year. I explained the reasons for that in my comments right before we cut his birthday cake (the cake pictured above):
It was partly what I said, and that was that I wanted some way for people to have a good, positive thing rather than the horrible thing three weeks from now. And so, that was my main motivation.

But the other reason was that I wanted to celebrate his life, not the fact that he’s not here, but the fact that he was here. Because if you stop to think about it, we’re all connected through him. I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be in New Zealand, if I’d never met him, and chances are I might not be here at all if I hadn’t met him.

As you all probably remember, in 2016… he bullied me to go to the doctor, and as a result I got the cardiac stent that saved my life. So, if I’d never met him, I might not be here, I certainly wouldn’t be here, if I’d never met him. So I’m always going to be grateful for that.

He was a gift to me, and a gift to all of us. And so, that’s what this is really all about: It’s all about celebrating Nigel’s life, the fact that we got to share some of it, and looking toward the future, because that’s what he would want.
He would be absolutely over the moon with the cake—I know that for certain. Thanks to the family for organising that. We’ve had a few of his favourite [food items] here as well… so, we’ve tried our best to include him, with some things that he would love and that he’d like to take part in if he were here.
Thanks again, and thank you all for being here.

(Special thanks to my sister for sending me a video of my remarks so I could remember what I said).
The party was originally supposed to be at my house, but so many things got in the way. The fatigue and lethargy my prescriptions cause made it impossible for me to get the house the way I wanted it, much less “perfect”, and I was okay with that. I’ve had to learn to let go of the things I can’t change, and that was one of them.

But Friday wasn’t a good day. Sunny refused to eat all day, and then that night—the night before the party—Sunny started vomiting, once in the evening, and twice again during the night (something like 3am and maybe an hour later). I had to get out the carpet cleaning machine to clean it up, but it made my bedroom smell, so it was hard to go back to sleep. That was already a difficult thing to do because knowing that Sunny was unwell meant I was half awake all night in case she scratched on the door to have me let her out. She never did, but all of that left me exhausted.

The following morning, she fell over and did a wee while lying there. I cleaned that up then hopped in the shower in case the vet could take her right away. In the end, the first appointment I could get was at 2:30pm, after the party was scheduled to start.

My brother- and sister-in-law arranged an appointment with their vet, and came over to take me there (I felt too exhausted to drive, and I was worried about Sunny). They were also there for support in case it turned out to be that trip to the vet. It wasn’t.

The vet thought she might have some sort of parasites and prescribed antibiotics and de-worming pills, and he gave her a shot for the nausea. He also did blood tests (which turned out to be nearly normal).

Because of all this, the family suggested that we move the party to Nigel’s brother’s house, and I agreed. The Hamilton family got things ready while my brother-in-law and I dropped Sunny off at my house.

I was completely relaxed about the change in venue because of that whole letting go of the things I can’t change, and also because in his final days Nigel made me promise that I’d ask for and accept help, something that’s not actually in my nature to do. I knew he’d be happy that I let the family help me. I was, too.

I had some personal reasons for wanting the party at my house. First, I never got the chance to have a housewarming party because for the first couple months after I shifted in I was busy trying to get the house in Auckland sold. Then, lockdown happened. But another reason I wanted it at home was that it was my house, one that didn’t even exist when Nigel died. I wanted to include him and the family all together in my own home as a sort of a symbolic bridge.

On the other hand, Nigel and I had been to his brother’s house many times, so in that sense it was a more appropriate venue. But there was one last thing I forgot about until I was listening to my sister’s video, and that is, that we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Nigel. I knew that if we did that at my house, it would mean Leo would “sing along”, as he always does when he hears that song (and only that song, something that Nigel discovered by accident). When the video got to the singing part, Leo, who was nearby, joined in. He’s a good boy. I then remembered that I was hoping that he’d do that at the party. In a sense, I guess he did.

The family always enjoys each other’s company, and did so this past Saturday—even under these circumstances it was no different. As it happens, it was only six years ago—Saturday, August 30, 2014—that we had Nigel’s 50th birthday party, something I realised only today when a “Facebook Memory” popped up: My sister-in-law’s sharing of photos from that night. I remembered all the photos, and the good time we all had that night. But Nigel’s gone, so is the venue the party was at, and so is one of our friends who was in the photos. But the thing I was most focused on wasn’t what was gone, it was what was there—love, happiness, and lots of laughing. We still have all of that.

Being able to share a life with Nigel was the most important part of my life, something that will always have an impact on me whatever happens in the future. That was his gift to me.

I realise that there are no doubt some folks who’d think that celebrating the birthday of someone who’s died is a bit weird, but this was the first of Nigel’s birthdays since he died, and only around three weeks until the horrible anniversary. Under the circumstances, celebrating it was an important thing to do.

A party? Sure. But every single day I celebrate the fact he lived, and that we shared such an awesome, amazing life together. It was his birthday we celebrated, but this year, like all the others, I felt that I’m the one who got the real gift, having had him in my life. And that’s a great reason to have a party.

I bought the "Happy Birthday" banner several years ago, but only used it once, when I tied it to the shelves above Nigel's desk for his birthday last year, the last one we celebrated with him. He actually didn't even notice it until I pointed it out to him, probably because he wasn't feeling well by then. I'd planned on pinning the banner to the wall above this bookcase for the party, but I realised I'd need a hand to do that, so I just left it there on his birthday and the days after.

The numbers on the cake in the photo up top are Nigel's Birthday in the Star Trek Stardate format.

1 comment: