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  • It is the day of my nephew's first birthday party. There is laughter and there is cake with heaps of buttercream and there are eager relatives passing the baby around like the bread basket at the dinner table.

    My father and mother give Samuel a Radio Flyer, and we comment on how cute he looks in it as my mother pulls the little red wagon in circles around the house. Later my sister has Samuel on her hip as they make their way through the crowd of partygoers. She is laughing and chatting and thanking each person for being there.

    While all of this is going on the director of the retirement home leaves a message on my father's cell phone: My 98-year-old grandmother has broken her ankle and is in the hospital. He won't get the message for several hours because the phone is in his car.

    My brother-in-law spots my grandfather across the street knocking on the neighbor's door. He has wandered off from the backyard party in his brand new loafers. All the houses look the same now that he has Alzheimer’s.

    Today is Samuel's first birthday, and we are happy to celebrate. But at the end of the day, we also cannot escape the sadness. We are sad for Grandma on the floor. We are sad for Granddaddy on the stoop. We will pick up Samuel and give him an extra hug and a kiss. We will hold him close and remind ourselves that sometimes there is delight in the midst of despair.
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