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Bittersweet Sixteen

I think about Charlotte every single day. However, this time of year, I'm flooded with all kinds of memories as we commemorate the anniversary of her birth. This year feels like a bit of a milestone. Sixteen. 

If cancer had not taken her life back in 2010, I have a feeling I would be planning a massive birthday celebration this year. 16 always feels like a landmark year in someone's life. 

I have been thinking a great deal about the last birthday party we had for Charlotte in 2009. We didn't know it at the time, but we were halfway through her treatment journey. We had been through three major brain surgeries and a few rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. Treatments were not going well. In fact, right after her birthday, we would make the trip to Houston, Texas where we would settle in for about 10 weeks of proton beam radiation treatments and a new customized chemotherapy protocol. This was the unspoken "last chance option" to beat that aggressive brain tumor into submission. 

How do you give a 4-year-old a birthday party when in the back of your mind, you have a sneaking suspicion it may be her last? In those days, I was holding on to hope, but the grip was loosening. I think I knew without knowing. Looking back on that now is so hard sometimes. 

A few days after her birthday,
taking in a baseball game in Houston

I honestly don't remember a lot of the details of the actual party. We held it at the Romp n' Roll location that we owned at the time. Friends and family gathered. Music played. We had bubbles and a disco ball and a bouncy house. We had two birthday cakes (because...why not?). Charlotte was adorable but she was also at a stage where she was a little ambivalent about social interaction. Months of hospitalizations, doctor's appointments, therapy appointments, and constant attention were wearing on her. She easily fatigued and sometimes even my attention was rejected. A few days after her party, we got on a plane to Texas for the next stage of the journey. 

It has been hard to celebrate my own birthday ever since Charlotte died. It's a combination of survivor guilt and grief. I do, however, love devoting energy to celebrating others. When Every Day is a Bonus, you should get the 2nd cake, have the taco feast, see a Broadway show. My household budget usually constrains me with limits, but in my mind, anything should be possible. 

So once again, I will remember. I will celebrate. I will cry. It's a bittersweet time and an especially bittersweet year. I am grateful for so much and I still miss that sweet face. Every. Single. Day. 

Charlotte Jennie Reynolds


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