To The Birthday Girl

Dear Birthday Girl,

Some things never change.

With the threat of a blizzard blanketing Nebraska this week, there was mob panic at local grocery stores for Snowmageddeon supplies of milk and bread.  I won’t mention any names but your best friend forever was among many who pillage the aisles of Aldi leaving your old mom few rations at my late 6:30 p.m. shopping spree.  I stood dumbfounded in the center of the discount supermarket and stared at the remaining bag of lonely onions.  With no 1% milk in hand, I returned home to one big salad and the quietness of a city that sleeps.  With Omaha moving slow, now is as good as any to get caught up with my Baboushka.

Some things do change.

Since you left, I’ve become a senior citizen.  I’m on that slippery slope that leads to oodles of enticing savings and perks.    The American Association of Retired People launched a full-scale assault on my mailbox when I turned 50 in an attempt to make me a card-carrying geriatric.  Initially I was very wily in ignoring their campaign but I have learned that an AARP membership scores me a free doughnut with the purchase of a large coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.  I also get a free small pop at Taco Bell, 10% off at Arby’s and don’t forget the smorgasbord of cheese cubes available to all age groups at Whole Foods.  No worries on the Golden Corral Early Bird Special;  I’m not yet 60.

SeniorCitizenSignI’ve also been seduced by rock star “Reserved for Senior Citizen” parking.  I know you are wondering what happened to the mom that parked in the furthermost stall at church and made you and Ryan trek in with me.  I would tell you that we were healthy and we needed to prefer other people;  you would mumble, “We should have packed a sack lunch for the hike.”  My favorite was the time you had the audacity to ask if I would drop you and Ryan at the front door, valet style, because it was raining.  I am Mom…hear me roar with laughter.

Age has its privileges, and when I swerved into ‘for elderly only’ parking it was wicked cold, like zero degrees, and there was no printed ‘must be 60+’ age criteria to stop me.  No one carded me, and I made a clean getaway into the building feeling a little smug.  The down side was when I left the special event a handsome guy struck up a conversation with me on the walk out and he asked “Where are you parked?”

My mind moved at the speed of light for a clever reply.  “Err, waiting for my Uber ride.”? What if he said “I’ll wait with you.”?  With no escape pod in sight, I sheepishly pointed to my plundered space with its gigantic “Senior Citizen” sign.

Sweet Jesus…what was I thinking?

I laughed at myself remembering my wise uncle who says, “Life is really a giggle if you sit back and look at it.”

If you are watching me from heaven, I bet you are also wondering what happened to the mom that demanded freshly made beds in the morning, military style.  I do straighten the covers on the mattress, sometimes, if I know maintenance is going to stop in. There was also that modesty mom, that drove everyone nuts and patrolled all cleavage before leaving the house and required that your brother wear a t-shirt to mow the yard even on hottest of days.  Frankly, I’m not sure where she went, but please don’t return her.   Every Sunday night I need to email bikini selfie pictures to The Boss my life coach, along with my comprehensive nutritional spread sheet.   My sights are set on wearing a two piece on some beach with cute umbrella drinks for my 60th birthday.

You also told me not to get my nose pierced because my schnoz was too big;  oops, that changed, too.  I sealed that deal December 23, 2015 in the safety of Drunken Sailor;  seemed more sanitary than the back alleys of India when I visit the Taj Majal.  And that recommendation that my fashion portfolio was not to include Uggs because you deemed me as anything but relaxed: Oops again.  Please reference paragraph above on not making bed.

Then there’s the “if you wore it in the sixties you can’t wear it now!” mantra: I just scored a groovy black and white mod patterned polyester dress at Gucci Goodwill that I wear with hot pink cardigan and my Kenneth Cole boots that are made for walking.  Please try not to scream from heaven when you see me wear the Swarovski peace symbol necklace.

Everything changed when you died. 

Megans Memorial Cards 2008
March 2008 – Memorial Magnet and Notecard for Megan’s funeral

Housing changed.  I know you wanted me to stay at Bloomfield, but you couldn’t see that geography can become a tomb for the living filled with difficult memories.  Maybe you’ll be most surprised to know that there was a paradigm shift in my employment.  “I want to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing degree and design funeral programs” said no artist ever.   How could either of us have foreseen that the magnets and thank you notes for your service would become the catalyst for part of my current career?   I move with great ease in the world of grief; having walked through the darkness with you has become the place that your mom has found the light.  To date, thousands of my original designs have been printed and shared, and it all started with your precious life.

Hard to believe, but my body has metamorphosed into what I could never imagine.  I know you tried to lay out my clothes for me for the rest of my life, but you couldn’t see what I’d eventually change into once the weight of staggering grief was off my shoulders.

One thing never changes.

I miss you, Birthday Girl.  I’ve learned that grief is not something you get over, but you carry, much like an umbrella ready for the rain.  Sometimes I cry, because memories do sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.  And sometimes when it’s Mother’s Day or Easter, I step away to be alone.  And sometimes I think, “How did I get from there to here?” because a life without you would not be my choice, but it’s the life I’ve been given.  But it’s a good life, and on days like today I hope you are proud of me.

See you on the other side, dear Megan. I know you’ll be waiting…I’ll be the one with the red umbrella.

Happy 35th Birthday.  I love you,


Key Notes:

  • Hold dying wishes loosely.  My daughter was wise and prophetic, but she couldn’t completely see the future.  She only knew the mom on the left in the picture below.
  • My greatest shift this year was moving from survival to living.  In the book “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen she states:  “What we do to survive is often different from what we may need to do in order to live.  My work as a cancer therapist often means helping people to recognize this difference, to get off the treadmill of survival, and to refocus their lives.”
  • I spent my 50th birthday in chemo and radiation with Megan.  The handicap parking stickers arrived for my girl on my 51st.  Dad took me to his oncologist on my 55th birthday to learn his leukemia was terminal.  Count me in for a red bikini and umbrella drinks on my 60th (February 27, 2017)

On a Lighter Note:

  • No one has noticed my nose pierce because my schnoz is so big.
  • I will not be using Senior Citizen Parking any time soon…Will be trekking from the back lots again.  My FitBit will thank me.
  • A Dunkin’ Doughnut has 31 carbs.  Krispy Creme has 21. Save 10% on all orders if you are over 50.  Sign up for their email and get a free donut.  Don’t tell The Boss.
  • Thank you Life Coach Matt Jackson and Kim Schiltz.  You stepped in to where my girl stepped out.  I’m never alone, and have great friends and family, too.  The picture below is evidence of a happy life.



Category: Uncategorized


  1. Oh my gosh Valerie… you look amazing and this latest writing is fantastic! My emotions were all over the place. I laughed at your use of the word ‘safety’ with a piercing shop called ‘Drunken Sailor.’ So good. But it’s your tender heart-to-heart notes to Megan that are so powerful. Thank you for letting us in. And tell Megan we’re all digging your groovy, far-out style! Peace and love…

  2. Happy Birthday to your much loved daughter. I am sorry that I didn’t get the opportunity to meet her.
    Our children are such a mystery- they come out of our bodies, we love them with everything we have to give, and then become themselves, apart from us. I am sad that your girl is not on earth to be with you today, but believe with you, that she will be with you forever when your purpose is complete here.
    Glad to connect with you again after so many years. You are an inspiring writer!

  3. Val.. I’m so happy for you.. I love the way that you let us all into your life.. “Keep on .. keeping on” as Pastor has shared with us all.. God bless you richly!

  4. Valerie, I know we don’t know each other very well. What I do know is that your transformation has been so incredible. May God continue to bless you on your journey. Blessings to you sis!

  5. Eloquent and wise. Thank you for putting pieces of you out here. You are such an encouragement. Love you.

  6. Val, you look fabulous. It’s the life I hoped you would find after Megan was promoted. I’m still waiting for our trip to the Greek Islands. Perhaps someday…Love you girl!

  7. It’s from me (Jennifer Staley), Val, can’t imagine why this pesky computer doesn’t know who I am, lol!

  8. Pure wonderful. Always love your writings! You look fabulous and Megan is certainly overjoyed from above. Love you, Val!

  9. Smokin’ hot, new name & all, Valerie Bourdain! Megan IS so proud, I’m sure of it. It is so awesome that your time with Megan during those dark days left you with so many happy memories and inspirational insights from her soul… the soul that keeps on living through your gifted writing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Awesome, awesome awesome! This made me think, laugh, cry, think again and then laugh out loud. Thank you for making my day.

  11. I’m always sad at the end of your blog because I just want to read more. I’m convinced Megan has prayed you from survival into living again. I wonder what she will start praying for now. 🙂

  12. Oh my gosh this gave me goosebumps and made me laugh and cry all at the sametime. i just love reading your blogs and seeing your amazing transformation!! 🙂

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain

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