As her birthday approached, I seriously considered staying here in Nashville instead of driving home to be with my family. Selfishly, I was tempted to try to let the day pass like any normal day, but boy am I ever so grateful for my beautiful husband who knows my heart so deeply. When I shared with him that I secretly didn't want to go home, he delicately urged me to think through why I felt this way, and on the day of Victoria's birthday would I feel better avoiding it rather than trying to make something special of the day by spending it with my family in ATL. Of course he was right, and I took his advice straight to the heart and my parents, Alex, and I did just that- we were able to experience God's joy and faithfulness as we shared together Victoria's first birthday without her here. Bobby unfortunately had to stay in TN because Vic's birthday was on a Friday, and I left early Friday morning to go home and he could not miss work.
As soon as I arrived in Atl, we drove to the cemetary to bring Victoria some pink roses and meet an older couple who had been trying to contact us regarding Victoria and her untimely death. One of Vic's friends, Brittany, had arrived at the cemetary before us and had decorated her gravesite with beautiful flowers, butterly confetti, balloons, and a great big butterfly balloon. It was amazing and so touching. This couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kumar were waiting to greet us. You see, they also had a child buried in the same cemetary, a son named Victor. He died 2 yrs ago of a massive heart attack at age 37. They faithfully visit his grave every Saturday and one day they came across Victoria's grave not too far from where their son is buried. The wife immediately felt a closeness to my mom because she could empathize with losing a child so young, and their names were also similar. From that day on, they have been cleaning off Victoria's gravesite every Saturday and had been trying to find a way to contact my family to meet us. To make a long story short, Mr. Kumar was finally able to leave a voice mail for my parents and explained how they had been looking after and praying over Victoria's grave every Saturday. My parents were extremely touched by their kindness and so decided to meet them at the cemetary on Victoria's birthday.
I could go on and on about the compassion of this couple, but I will just say this- when I looked into the eyes of Mr. Kumar as we talked about my sister and his son, I felt as though I were looking into the eyes of Christ. He looked at me with such a loving and tender gaze, and I felt such a peace standing in the presence of someone who had been a stranger just 3 minutes prior! I can't really describe it, but instead of feeling sadness as we stood over my sister's grave on her birthday, I felt a deep warmth that penetrated my heart and filled me with such an unexpected joy! As I type this, I am almost chuckling at how God made himself present to me on that day, not in the form of a beautiful angel, but rather a short wrinkly older Indian man with dark eyes-yet the kindest eyes I have ever seen. We spent most of the morning visiting with him (after we left the cemetary, we all went to Starbucks together and shared pumpkin lattes and pictures of Victor and Victoria).
One of the most incredible parts about us meeting was when the Kumars talked about the day my mom contacted them for the first time. Mr. Kumar had left my mom a few messages before she finally called back. She hesitated to call back at first not sure of his intentions, and why he was so interested in meeting our family even though we were all really touched by them taking care of Vic's grave in between our weekly visits. On a Saturday afternoon in late August, my mom called them back and left a message. WELL, it turns out that the exact day and time that my mom called the Kumar's was the 2yr anniversary and exact time of their son Victor's death. My mom obviously had no idea of this, but for the Kumar's, it was an immediate confirmation that our families were destined to meet! It was a great morning and afternoon spent with them!
The rest of Victoria's birthday was spent doing some of her favorite things. That night at her high school's football game, all the cheerleaders released blue balloons in honor of her birthday right at kickoff. Then we ate dinner at La Parilla (her FAVORITE restaurant-mine too!) as a family. We had such a wonderful time together at dinner and shared our favorite parts of VIctoria's birthday (mine was obviously spending time with the Kumar's!). Favorite's ranged from random butterflies showing up in places to simply spending time together. Ava's favorite part was dancing to the mariachi band at dinner! She was so cute.
On Sunday, we invited a few of Victoria's friends to join us in planting the beginnings of a garden at the cemetary. We started with planting 3 crape myrtles (sp?), and it looks so wonderful! They will bloom white. It was a great day filled with love and God's blessings as we celebrated the memory of my sweet sister and her birthday.