My mom would be turning 75 in a few weeks if it weren’t for the glioblastoma brain tumor. We lost her almost 14 years ago in 2007 when she was 61.

It is really complicated and difficult to celebrate someone’s birth date when they are not alive anymore. Sometimes you don’t know whether to celebrate and honor them with a cake or celebration or let the day pass like any other day.

Do I celebrate the milestone that would have been her 75th birthday? Or do I continue to celebrate her life in the daily rhythms of everyday life?

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I’m sitting in an unsure place. Frankly, I don’t know what to do, and I usually let my emotions leading up to the date dictate those decisions.

It can feel hard. Grief changes shape over the years. But the loss is always there.

And real talk: I have never put out a picture of my mother in my house since she died. It’s been almost 14 years, and finally the other day I just put one out in the living room as her 75th birthday approaches.

And I can’t decide if her 75th birthday feels like a looming event or an event that approaches with celebration. And I may not know until the day comes—which is totally OK.

These milestone birthdays are difficult without a loved one. Whether it is their birthday or our birthday, it can still be hard. It can still feel full of polarizing emotions.

But this I know—my mother is still in my everyday. Emotionally. Physically. She’s here.

She’s in the physical therapy office with me. She’s that client on the table next to me whose face resembles my mother’s. She makes me feel like she was on my shoulder injury and recovery process with me.

She was out to lunch with me last summer when I saw a specific woman who was my mother’s build and who dressed like my mother. It gave me comfort to see her, and it felt like we were eating together again.

She’s out in the grocery store when I see a woman whose hair looks exactly like my mother’s. Short and gray. I stop in the middle of the aisle to think of my mother’s signature dinner meals.

And now . . . she’s finally out in my living room in a frame. She begins to give me comfort in my home.

I know all of these different women I saw in passing are little snippets of my mother. They are treasures of Heaven surfaced on earth. They are sacred, pause-filled moments of my mom‘s physical features illuminated in my everyday moments on this earth with an emotional, graceful presence.

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A swooning in . . . a swooning out . . . of her presence.

They are moments God sees my pain, and He provides different magical moments that pull me in closer to my mother’s love and His love.

Moments He whispers, I see you, and however you decide to honor your mother’s 75th birthday—whether on her birthday or in the everyday—it doesn’t matter.

It matters where love is found, and where you feel love, you will feel your mother close by.

Because there’s always a heartstring back to your mom.

She is in you. She is your roots. She is your beginning.

And she always loves you. And you always love her, even in the midst of the big emotions of milestones.

Sue Volikas

I've been married to my high school sweetheart, Tim, for 16 years and became a mom 4.5 years ago through adoption to my adventure seeker, Elle. I'm trying to see the beauty and bright spots in broken places. I write one glimpse at a time about grief and loss, mother-daughter relationships, adoption, and faith.