I can remember all of the birthdays Jaime and I spent together as friends, dating, engaged, and as husband and wife. Each carries a special memory for me, but none quite as powerful as Jaime’s last birthday. Like most days, then, I left to take Felicity to school and I decided to put gas in the car. While pumping gas, I noticed Jaime had texted me and said she could hear people outside of the garage apartment. I had apparently locked the door, and they tried knocking to get someone to open the door to let them in. Jaime already was not very mobile, so the idea of her climbing down the stairs to the door was out of the question. Not knowing what was going on, I raced back to the apartment and found a dozen people just sitting there. Actually, they weren’t just sitting there. They carried balloons, a banner, flowers, and special treats for my wife. Once every one gathered in our shoebox of a home, they just loved on my wife and made her birthday so special. These were friends, many who Jaime had taught their children dance, others whom she had met through a local Bible study. They loved my wife and I was so moved as they prayed for us. That day, Jaime was to receive news on the progress of her treatment. They prayed, as anyone would, for the cancer to be gone. And then, someone prayed for me – that I would have endurance, and strength. On her birthday, we did get news that the tumor was shrinking. What great news that was to receive on her birthday. It was so good to see my wife smile and to have good news in the midst of such an uncertain time.
As long as I knew Jaime, she was always fearful of growing old and dying. It was only until after Jaime got cancer that her fear of death faded. She had always emphatically said to me, “James, I don’t want to be 30.” Yes! Jaime once thought 30 was old. But you know, she just wanted to do so much and she saw the additional year on her life as a hindrance to getting everything accomplished. Little did Jaime know all that she fully understands now. God never intended Jaime to be 30. In fact, as painful as it is to accept, He intended for her to complete His plan for her life in 29 years. What would have been Jaime’s birthday has been a difficult day to think about. Like the pictures that hang on the refrigerator, as well as wedding photos that will remain in boxes until Felicity asks to see them, it is a reminder that she once was alive. So many of you, unfortunately, did not get to know just how full of life she really was. Jaime was that person who would walk into a room, work the crowd, and leave with ten new friends. If there was music playing, Jaime was dancing. If there was someone standing alone, Jaime was their friend. If someone mentioned they needed something, Jaime was finding me and asking me, “What can we do for them?” So many times, as I sit alone in the middle of the night I think over the painful reality that this amazing woman, who I met as a teenager, and grew up with and fell in love with…this exuberant, beautiful person is gone.
The last week of Jaime’s life, I sat beside her bed and let her know that it was ok that she needed to go. In what were some of the most painful moments for me as a husband, I held her hand and told her that I would forever be crushed by her leaving, but that I was happy for her that her cruel battle would be over, and that I would see her again soon. Without any doubt in my heart or mind, Jaime has been experiencing the most beautiful days of her life. Recalling her last birthday fills my heart with joy that she was able to enjoy her special day in the midst of her illness. Last year, she wrote that she had had the greatest honor in the world in that the “most powerful force in the world – love”, surrounded her on her birthday. The woman had cancer and wrote about the greatest honor being the people around her and that they loved her…not once mentioning the struggles and pain she was facing. You can see why I miss her so much.
Not knowing whether or not they celebrate birthdays in heaven, I would suggest that if Jaime were to write about this year’s celebration, she would once again write about being surrounded by love. Only this time, she knows what it means to be surrounded by perfect love. And if there are birthday celebrations, I know she has on the brightest, tallest, pink heels. She’s enjoying her cheesecake, dancing away, grabbing the microphone and encouraging all of the Baptists to at least move to the beat, and peering over the edge of eternity, eagerly awaiting the moment when we will all surround one another again in love.