Sarah Stultz: Birthday a time to celebrate daughter’s life

Published 9:08 am Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

“It’s Sophie’s birthday?” my son asked, as we drove from my in-law’s house Monday afternoon to Lakewood Cemetery.

We were slated to meet several others at Sophie’s gravesite to release balloons into the sky on what was her first birthday in heaven.

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My son, Landon, who is now 5, still gets confused when we talk about his sister, Sophie, who died last July in a crash here in Albert Lea. Landon, who has struggled in his life with some developmental delays, has understood that Sophie was hurt in a crash and that she is now in heaven with Jesus, but he still sometimes asks questions about when she will be back.

“I miss Sophie,” he exclaimed in the car, as we got closer to the cemetery. 

“I miss her, too,” I responded, as my eyes filled with tears.

That was the closest thing I had heard from him to date that alluded that he might actually understand more than I thought about what has happened.

Those thoughts were quickly pushed aside as we arrived at the cemetery to meet 30 or 40 friends and family members who were holding balloons near her gravesite. Despite the cold and rainy temperatures, it was a beautiful site to see.

After a few minutes, we released our balloons — some with messages attached — into the sky.

It was a happy, yet sad experience as we went through another “first” since Sophie’s death. We’ve gone through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and now we’ve reached her birthday.

These dates are difficult, but at the same time they remind me of the good from her life and what I will always treasure about her.

In honor of what would have been her ninth birthday, I would like to share with you nine things she taught me:

1. Love life. 

2. Be kind to others.

3. Enjoy the outdoors.

4. Take time to read a good book.

5. Build bridges not walls.

6. Love learning.

7. Be adventurous.

8. It’s OK to laugh at yourself.

9. Don’t forget to smile.

Thank you for the many people who continue to support us on this journey. Every day, I am amazed at the many prayers and kind words and deeds offered on our behalf.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.