The Day My Wife Decided to Enjoy Her Birthday Again

Processing grief and finding joy can happen in unexpected ways

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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The month of August just happens to be when I, my wife, Jill, and her nephew, Jackson, were born. Jill loves birthdays — except hers. This year, I truly understood why.

To celebrate, we visited Boston, where our daughter, Alexus, and her husband, René, live, as well as Jill’s brother and his family, including Jackson.

Jill’s mom, Edwina, who lives in Pennsylvania, decided to come with us. We stayed at our daughter’s home, and my mother-in-law stayed at her son’s. Little did we know that on the day we were to celebrate Jackson’s birthday, Edwina was plotting with her son’s family to have everyone celebrate Jill’s birthday and mine, too.

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Edwina had gotten cake and ice cream for us. She bought candles, and everyone sang happy birthday. Jackson had a blast, and so did we.

As we were sitting in the kitchen talking, Jill and her brother discussed their lack of enthusiasm for their own birthdays.

“It’s not because I don’t like getting older,” Jill said. Her brother agreed and said he liked having a birthday — he just didn’t need a party for it.

At that point, Jill, who is gene-positive for Huntington’s disease, started to tear up. Her brother looked concerned, and I could tell he thought he said something to upset her.

She told him she was sad because that day was their father’s birthday, and she missed him. Her father, Ken, passed away from Huntington’s in 2011. The conversation then turned to their family’s birthday traditions. One was that they could pick out whatever they wanted for dinner and dessert and their mom would make it for them.

They talked about how hot their home, which didn’t have air conditioning, was in the middle of August. It was so hot, her brother joked, that he wished they had all eaten tuna salad during the summer because he didn’t want anyone to turn on the oven.

Jill shared with René and me what she and her dad did every year. Her father’s birthday was Aug. 15, and Jill’s is the next day. Every year, one would ask for pepper steak and the other would ask for double-cheese meatloaf. The next year they would reverse it.

After Jill shared her story, I realized she didn’t dislike her birthday. She just missed her father and the closeness she felt with him. Her birthday was just a reminder that he was gone and she gets closer to suffering from Huntington’s disease just like he did.

Later that evening, as we were leaving, Jill told everyone that it was a wonderful celebration and a reminder that she’s allowed to enjoy her birthday. She never thought about how much she was affected by her sadness that her father wasn’t there to enjoy the day with her. She decided to let that sadness go and just enjoy her birthday. It’s what her father would have wanted — that and carrot cake.

Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Stacy Neal avatar

Stacy Neal

Thank you for sharing your wife's story. Life is short and even shorter for others with HD, which is always looming in our thoughts. We have a little over a handful of November birthdays in our family. 2 have passed from HD, 1 is not positive and 2 do not want to know... we celebrate their life always and their birthdays. Its important for all of us. THANK YOU FOR THE REMINDER!!

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

I agree celebrating with loved ones should only be a happy, but HD can make it hard. Hopefully, there will soon be a cure and we can all eat carrot cake for years to come.


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