I’m planning two parties right now, a sleepover for my daughters and a gathering for family and friends to honor my son Jordan. The paradox is not lost on me. My twin daughters’ birthday is exactly a week before Jordan’s birthday. My girls will turn 11 on August 2nd. Jordan would be 21 on August 9th. Sometimes I have to shake my head to clear my thoughts enough to do such parallel planning. I want my daughters birthday to be special and silly and fun just as 11-year old girls are. I’m putting extra care into their party because this year their attention has been more focused on their brother’s birthday rather than their own.
My daughter Lindsay was the first to ask about Jordan’s birthday. “Are we having a party again this year for Jordan’s birthday?” The thought had been running through my mind for weeks, but I wasn’t sure if I had the emotional energy to make it happen. Watching my family as August 9th approaches I realize we are all feeling Jordan’s absence even stronger than usual. We need to have a party for Jordan to soothe our hearts and make the equivalent of a shouting of his name from the rooftop. We need the world to know, “Jordan was here.” 08-09-10 is the birthday Jordan couldn’t wait to celebrate. Not just because of the freedom and status that being 21 brought but also because of the magical flow of numbers: 8,9,10. This flow of numbers as magical as his birth date, 8-9-89.
Last year I was compelled to have a gathering for Jordan’s friends in honor of his birthday. It was the first birthday we’d celebrated since his death. I worried about Jordan’s friends and wanted those friends who couldn’t attend the memorial service and even those who had, to have a place with our family knowing they were with others who loved and missed Jordan. The party was beautiful. Jordan’s friend Luc who plays the sax with the same talent and passion as any jazz great brought his band to our home and performed. Another friend Matt made a video of silly moments from their elementary and high school years and we watched and laughed together. I watched with gratitude as bridges between Jordan’s high school friends and college friends were crossed as they met and shared their own Jordan stories for the first time. It was almost perfect. I mingled with the kids and my friends in attendance until the moment when it was all too much. There came a point when all I could think was, “How could we have a party for Jordan without Jordan?”
“I miss my boy. I want him to come home.”
I made my way to my bedroom, quietly closed the door and lay on my bed and sobbed. After a few minutes there was a knock at the door and my sister Julie peeked her head in. Seeing my face she simply asked, “Is it okay if I stay in here with you?” I nodded yes and she lay down beside me and touched my shoulder. I cried and wailed and called Jordan’s name and she cried with me. I thought back to Jordan’s first birthday and the party we held. The party Julie and I planned together. Julie and I joked back then that we could go into the party planning business.
It is now weeks from Jordan’s birthday. Twenty years later Julie and I are planning a party for Jordan again. Jordan’s 17- year old brother has repeatedly said to me, “I want it to be huge.” He misses his brother and best friend so much and needs to see the love and longing for Jordan reflected back to us so we don’t feel so alone in missing and honoring him.
As August approaches my daughters’ excitement for their birthday is rising. The night of their party my husband and I will listen to the karaoke singing, glee filled laughter and whispering that sleepovers bring. We’ll hand out goodie bags as the guests leave and look at our daughters for signs of hazy contentment that comes from sleep-deprived fun. Then, on August 14th we’ll have an “Open Mic Night,” as suggested by Lindsay. Friends and family will gather to express themselves through poetry, song, dance, storytelling, however they see fit. We’ll pass the hat for “Jordan’s fund” and provide scholarships for college students. Great effort is going into both parties. Generosity and love is bestowed upon my children.