Yesterday — August 30, 2021 — marked the seventh anniversary of the 2014 passing of Fran’s and my daughter, Rhiannon. It was a stormy evening here in Atlanta, as we began to feel the wrath of Hurricane Ida. So Fran and I just grabbed carryout personal pizzas from Rhiannon’s favorite pizza joint, Uncle Maddio’s, and then came home and watched one of her favorite movies, Despicable Me. Even after all these years, the movie still charmed us.
If you have read Unteachable Lessons or Eternal Heart, you have “met” Rhiannon (as Brian McLaren says, “You won’t forget her”). She died in August 2014 after a lifelong journey with polycystic kidney disease. She was 29 years old. She had been in hospice for seven months at the time of her passing. She died at home, with just Fran, me, and a CNA present — whom we had never met before that day, and would never see again. She may have been Rhiannon’s guardian angel, for all we knew.
It’s hard to believe seven years have gone by. So much has changed, from me becoming a full-time writer/speaker/spiritual director, to Fran retiring from her career with the school system and taking up fiber arts, to our increasing involvement with the Atlanta contemplative community. After seven years we still miss Rhiannon, but in the days before her passing she made each of us promise to take care of the other. So we are trying to honor that promise by living our best life, here and now.
Yesterday, without thinking, I called it “Rhiannon’s Death Day” — no doubt influenced by the recent science fiction series Manifest, about (among other things) a group of people who learn that they are fated to die on a certain day. As soon as I said it, I winced at how harsh it sounded. What’s a better way to name the anniversary of someone’s passing? In the church, we speak of a saint’s “feast day,” but that didn’t feel quite right, even though I am as certain as I am about anything that Rhiannon is in heaven. Then I realized, why not call it Rhiannon’s “heavenday”? May 19 is her (earthly) birthday, and so August 30 marks her “birthday into heaven” — her heavenday. So now that’s what I’m going to call this day.
Happy heavenday, Rhiannon. We trust we will see you again some day.
If you want to explore more about Rhiannon on my blog…
- A Rhiannon Photo Gallery
- Rhiannon’s Vigil and Funeral
- Living with Hospice
- Completing the Hospice Journey
- “How is she doing?” (a post I wrote about her health challenges in 2010)
The featured picture (above) is my favorite picture of me and Rhiannon, taken at the World War II memorial in Washington DC, July 2004. Below, here’s a picture of Fran, Rhiannon and me from Calloway Gardens in Georgia. I’m not sure the date but Rhiannon is wearing her Disney T-Shirt which she got in November 2003 so this dates from probably around 2004 also.