There are certain days that are particularly poignant when you lose someone you love. Two in particular are very hard for me and my family, the anniversary of my son's death and his birthday. These are always days that are full of memories and reflection.
Today, the 8th November, would have been my son David's 40th birthday. About this time 40 years ago I was watching that wonderful moment when he entered into the world. My first child. I was 23 years old and my wife was 21. I can remember the anxiety and feeling of helplessness as I watched my wife going through the process of giving birth. I can remember the joy of seeing David for the first time and holding him in my arms.
We didn't have a car at that time and my parents didn't have a phone, so I can remember catching a bus to my parents house to tell them. I wanted to tell everyone about my new son. It was one of the most joyous days of my life. I remember so many details. I probably remember more about David's birth than I do the births of my other three children. But I guess that's because he was our first born.
Today, as always I will be wondering what he would be like now. He was only 25 when he died. I'm grateful for every year I had him. I wonder what he would be like at 40? Would he have achieved at least some of his dreams? Would he have settled down or would he still be doing his own thing? Would he have married? Would he have given my wife and I grandchildren and what would they have been like? Lots of questions that have no answers.
40th birthdays are always significant. So not having him here to celebrate it with him is particularly poignant. Today my wife and I and his brothers and sister will visit his grave and lay flowers on it. In a few days time we will go out for a dinner together to remember him. My wife has also organised a family get together to remember him too.
It may sound strange to have a 40th birthday party for someone who is dead, but I know that my wife needs to do something to remember him. So we and the wider family will gather to eat and drink. David's artwork will be displayed, his music played and probably many of the videos he made will be played too, if my wife doesn't find watching them too much. Although it will be a time of celebration there will no doubt be a hint of sadness.
Both my wife and I are Christians, so we aren't without any hope. But even though we have a deep faith and trust in God, the pain of grief is nevertheless very real, as is the need to remember a much loved son, brother, uncle, cousin and nephew.