It was her last birthday but none of us knew it. In life you never do. Yet deep down, I think she did because her last birthday was unexpected and simple — just like Makenzie.
Turning 18, one would think that she’d want to do it up with friends and a party — silly balloons and maybe even a tiara.
That was Makenzie.
Instead of going big, she went small. All she wanted to do is to go to Grandpa and grandma’s house and spend the day on a small beach by their house.
“Are you sure?” I asked, being kindred with her playful spirit.
“Yes,” she said, “what a great way to spend my birthday with people I love.”
We played. We laughed. We talked and opened presents. I don’t remember what she got but I know that after each unwrapped she’d exclaiming, “Oh I love it. Thanks!” and then would give the giver a huge hug.
Cake on the beach. Writing in the sand. Dancing and twirling to music that was all in her head, and then closing out the night back at Grandpa and Grandma’s. That’s what she wanted. That’s what we did.
I think often on that day. I still see her making faces at her brother and tickling her sister. I still feel her smacky lips on my cheek at the end of the day saying, “Thanks dad. It was a great birthday.”
Each May 3rd, I wish I could celebrate with her again. I wish I could wake her up with breakfast on our families celebration plate and laugh with her as she fumbles with her scrambled eggs. Some day — again — I will. Some day, when this side of heaven takes its last bow and the curtain closes, I will be with her again to celebrate the birthday that Jesus has given her and me and all who believe.
Until that day, I will spend the day pondering, chuckling and shedding a few tears wishing I could say to her once more, “Happy Birthday, button-nose. Happy Birthday.”