Today is Emma’s birthday. Her name is Emma, but she will always be “Emmie” to me, at least until she’s a teenager and wants to be called Emma because Emmie doesn’t sound grown up enough. Today is Emmies birthday and she is very, very excited, there is joy shining through her eyes, a joy so bright it out shines the stars in the heavens.
Emmie giggles as she opens each present, she is 3 years old today and isn’t embarrassed to be silly or to bubble over with anticipation. All the people that Emmie loves are at her party. First there’s Mommy and Daddy, they’re always there, mommy is ready with her camera to capture each moment. Then there’s cousin Nico, Nico is her favorite, she calls him “her Nico”. Emmie is surrounded by people that love her, but this birthday is different, there is someone missing! Before long she looks up at her Grammy and asks “where’s Papa?” I see the questioning look on her face, Papa would never miss her special day! “Is Papa coming?” she asks. Silence falls like a heavy blanket over the room, Papa has gone to heaven, but Emmie doesn’t remember.
Emmies mommy scoops her up, holds her tight and gently reminds her that her Papa has gone to heaven to be with Jesus. Emmie has heard of Jesus, mommy takes her to church each Sunday and she knows that they talk about Jesus there. With a thoughtful expression, Emmie climbs off of her mommy’s lap, there are more presents to open and cake to eat.
After devouring her cake, Emmie announces that she wants to go outside, it’s a beautiful day full of sunshine, the sky is a brilliant blue with puffy clouds, a rare treat for a November day in New England and far too beautiful for being cooped up indoors. Our little girl has little patience for putting on a coat and shoes, she would go out barefoot if her mommy would let her. Charging out the door with Nico in tow they race to the play ground and head straight for the monkey bars, they’re her favorite! With Mommy close by, Emmie dangles from one of the low bars, a smile stretched wide across her face.
Grammy has brought a folding chair out to the playground, she plunks it down as she watches her granddaughter. Grammy is lots of fun, Emmie calls out to her “look at me Grammy” Grammy waves and says “I’m looking big girl, I’m looking”. It’s a wonderful day, the air is crisp, the sun is shining.
While the kids play, the adults drift into conversation, stopping here and there to make sure all the little ones are accounted for. For a moment I catch myself daydreaming, I wonder “what is Papa doing right now?” I mention this thought to Grammy, she is also my sister and we think a lot alike. Now I see a thoughtful expression cross her face and it amazes me how both her daughter and grand-daughters expressions so mirror her own. Then she looks at me and says “I have an idea”, she reaches into her pocket and pulls out two balloons, one bright pink, the other purple, from the other pocket she gets a small piece of paper, then asks me if I would get her a pen. As I walk to the house to find a pen, I laugh at the strange collection of items Grammy keeps in her pockets, I guess it comes from raising her own children and having to be prepared for anything.
When I return to the playground with the pen, I find Emmie and Grammy sharing the folding chair. Grammy is saying something about writing a note to Papa and putting it in one of the balloons. Together they write a note telling Papa how much he is loved and missed “we’ll send him all of our hopes” she says, then Grammy helps Emmie to sign her name, she writes “Love Emma Hope Cole”. Grammy hands me the balloons, I have been assigned the task of blowing them up. One balloon holds the note, on the other we write “for Papa Evancic”, that was Emmies idea, she wanted to be sure that her Papa gets it. Emmies mommy attaches a piece of ribbon to each balloon, while tying them on she tells Emmie that the ribbons are from one of her presents and that when Papa gets his special note and sees the ribbons, he will think of her and feel like he is at the party to. Emmie smiles, she loves her Papa so.
We all stand together, Emmie is holding the ribbons to both balloons and looking up, “Papa is up in heaven” she says, then Grammy says “let’s count to three and let the balloons go”. Emmie holds the balloons tight in one hand, with the other she counts 1,2,3, and lets go. As we stand together looking up, the balloons rise, they float higher and higher, Emmie points and asks “are the balloons going to Papa in heaven?” “yes they are Grammy says, yes they are”.