Our New Years Eve party is a time of joyful celebration, as are most, but ours celebrates the new year and our mom’s birthday which is on New Years Day. We bring in lots of snacks, and in fact we almost compete to see who makes the best one. We clear the kitchen of the table and chairs so there is room to dance, because Mom and Dad always liked to dance. There will be lots of visiting tonight, but there will also be lots of dancing. Everyone gets in on the fun, from the littlest kids, to the oldest adults there.
The dancers have changed over the years. These parties started when my sisters and I were little kids. As the years have gone by, our spouses and kids have danced on that kitchen floor, and now it’s our kids and their spouses and their children who grace the kitchen floor. The music has changed over the years too, from country, to a little bit rock and roll, to disco, and back to country, and all the dance styles that go with each of those genres. We have seen slow romantic dances, and fast dances that were just because the dancers were feeling happy. If these walls could talk…the stories they would tell.
The dancers were festive and the music cheerful. We have had some memorable dances, such as the rubber knee, performed by my brother-in-law, Mike, and for me, it was sweet to see my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin strutting their stuff. I didn’t even know they could dance so well. The many adult/child and adult/baby dances are always dances that put a smile on your face. But, the dance that will always hold the place in my heart for the most amazing, special, beautiful dance ever is the dance my parents had after both had been so ill that dancing seemed like it would never be possible for them again. It was a dance that showed their deep, lasting love for each other. It was a dance that we all gathered in the kitchen to see. The floor was theirs. We didn’t want to dance at that moment. We wanted to watch. It was a beautiful dance…not because of the steps taken, but because of the hearts that had been joined together for all those years…hearts that would belong to each other, forever.
The last 2 years or so have been really hard on my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve. When they found out that their daughter, Laila would be born with a heart defect that would eventually claim her life on November 22, 2010, they were so worried for their first little daughter, and eventually devastated by her loss. It was a really hard time in their lives. They had 3 sons, and their hearts desire was to also have a daughter. They were feeling so empty. They had a daughter, but not in this world.
That long hard time is in the past now, and people have to move forward in this life. So, believing in God’s love for them, they took a leap of faith and got pregnant again. This pregnancy was to be different. The Ultrasounds they had done, showed a perfect heart in their perfect little girl. They began to plan again….to dream again, and this time, their dream was going to come true. And this little girl was to be due to be delivered by C-section on August 22nd, just a few days before Steve’s birthday. She would be an early birthday present for him.
Little Aleesia Juliette, however, had a different plan. Instead of arriving on the 22nd, she would choose to arrive on the 19th, which also happened to be Steve’s sister, Julie’s birthday. With Aleesia’s birth, healing could truly begin. What a wonderful birthday this one will be for Steve, and for Jenny and the boys, because that little girl they have longed for is finally home and in their arms.
Steve is so much a daddy, and because of that, I know that his heart is so full of joy that it is hard to hold it in. Each of his 5 children are a unique type of joy to him. His family is his life’s blood. They complete him and he completes them. It is so heartwarming to see Steve with his kids. Happy birthday Steve!! I’m so happy for you and Jenny. What a wonderful early birthday present the Lord has given you, and your family. And, the really good news is that you are all home for your birthday, so you can celebrate together. We love you!!
Every year on February 9th, a small group of friends gather for breakfast at Johnny J’s Diner to talk about a little girl who touched all our hearts deeply, and left us far too soon. Brooke would have been 15 years old on December 24, 2011, but she passed away on February 9, 2004 from an acute asthma attack. I often wonder who she would have been today at 15 years old. She had such a bubbly personality and a smile and laugh that made it hard to ever tell her no…even if you should have. Her siblings knew how to get something they wanted, or do something they wanted to do…they just got Brooke to ask for it. The funny thing was, however, that she never seemed spoiled to me, or to anyone else that I know of. She was just sweet.
Now, 8 years later, we still gather to talk about the little girl who meant so much to all of us…and to console her mother, who still struggles with that day, as well as the month of February and even from December 24th through February 14th, which was the day Brooke was laid to rest…a fitting day for a girl who was born on a holiday, and very much loved.
Of course, Brooke was never a mother, but in her short little life, she practiced for that role she dreamed of having by mothering every baby she ever came across. Her mom, Dani babysat my grandchildren, but it was Brooke who babysat my youngest grandchild…Josh. Dani could help…a teeny little bit, but not very much, because Josh was Brooke’s baby, and everyone might just as well get that fact through their thick head, because that was the way it was.
Brooke touched the lives of young and old alike. She had her very favorites though, like my husband, Bob for example. Whenever Bob walked into a room Brooke was in, she ran over to him and gave him a big hug. She was almost like a little girlfriend, and I might have been jealous, had it not been for the difference in their ages. She loved him so much, and it was very hard to be jealous of such a sweet little girl, so I had to be content to share him whenever Brooke was in the room.
Now, 8 long years after her passing, we can each remember how she touched our lives, and I’m sure the stories will all be shared as we gather to look back on the life of a child that has been gone longer than she lived, and yet seems to still be so very much with us. Her memory is everywhere…every time we hear a child laugh, every time a little girl takes a shine to Bob, every time we see Madyson, Brooke’s little sister, who looks incredibly like her older sister…so much so, that I often call her Brooke. And so we gather to console her mother, and remember the little girl who touched our hearts.