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Happy 41st Heavenly Birthday, Baby

Balloons, cake, laughter and love. They are elements typically required to celebrate a birthday. Last year I incorporated all of those into my husband’s 40th heavenly birthday party.

Yup. I threw Rasheed a party nearly a year after he had passed away.

I mainly did it because that man never wanted me to make a big fuss over him, but a few days after his 39th birthday (and a few weeks before he was killed) he agreed to allow me to throw him a big 40th celebration where he could see all of his frat brothers, high school, college and business school classmates, and colleagues from throughout the years.

He never made it, but our friends and family did.

Some flew into town. Many drove.

Old friends.

New friends.

Even my new co-workers and boss drove a few hours to attend.

Friends from all around the country – including one of his fraternity brothers who lives in Alaska and my childhood bestie– made the trek to my parents’ home in Virginia.

My mom bought a cake. My girlfriends picked up good eats from the first restaurant account that Rasheed worked on at Darden, Bahama Breeze, and we all laughed with and loved on one another.


Want to hear a secret? I was really nervous before the big event. I didn’t know who would show up. I didn’t know if we would all sit there and stare at one another with tears in our eyes. I didn’t know if folks would leave sadder than how they arrived. But you know what? The love in that house lifted my spirit more than I knew was possible.

We celebrated an incredible man. Rasheed Amin Wiggins’ mark on this world was felt by so many and it was evident in that house on that particular March 24th.

It also gave me a chance to share updates of the scholarships I had worked on with friends that year at two of his alma maters: one at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and another at his high school, St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ.

Today I’m celebrating the birth of a man who changed me for the better.

We ended with a prayer outside, which was followed by the releasing of a wish and balloons by close family into the skies above. While I clearly shed tears that day, I also actually had a good night’s rest that night. I’m forever grateful for those who made the journey that day. They helped my heart more than I’m sure they’ll ever realize.


Though it may sound a bit strange to “normals”– a celebration of life for those no longer walking this earth may be the thing that can help your heart. However, please don’t feel you must plan a big affair. Sometimes just having a slice of cake and watching a great movie while being curled up on your couch in your pj’s is the perfect way to mark the day.

On March 24th, please #WALKN4RASHEED, and if you do, please let me know!

One of Rasheed’s dear relatives even came up with a wonderful way to honor his memory.

Rasheed valued physical fitness. He could play and excel at just about any sport. From fencing, martial arts, basketball, football, boxing — the man could do it all and did it all extremely well. On top of that he loved encouraging others to be their best, as well.

Elvira Tippins Russell recounted a beautiful story of her cousin, Rasheed, calling and encouraging her to walk more. On his first birthday without him here on this earth, she celebrated his beautiful life with the idea of “Walk N4 Rasheed”. She made the great tees you see above, sent them to family with the heartwarming story, and invited everyone to walk annually whenever we could — at the gym, around your house, inside your church — and for whatever amount of time in Rasheed’s honor.

I invite you all to do the same. On March 24th, please #WALKN4RASHEED, and if you do, please let me know! Post it online, tag me, or just email or text me. I promise you’ll brighten my day.

This year, I decided I needed something quieter. I didn’t want friends and family to feel obligated to attend anything. I also didn’t have the brain power to plan anything, nor did I have the emotional strength to think through the planning of an event. I decided to mark the day in a way that would be meaningful to Rasheed, which means it means the world to me.

Today I’m setting up a vendor table at an incredible faith conference for women on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; I’m selling my Still His® faith-based tees. Proceeds will fund my {L O V E} boxes (i.e. gift boxes} that my organization sends to the widowed. This year I’m actually partially excited to mark Rasheed’s birthday.

Famed gospel singer Yolanda Adams has an incredible song called “Fragile Hearts.” One verse always hits me when I hear it:

I ain’t got no time to pretend That I’m not missing you, oh no no no no I know you’re in good hands Same hands that hold my heart And I’ll cherish every moment we spent As a gift from God above For he takes care of all the fragile hearts

Of course I miss celebrating Rasheed’s birthday with him. Of course my day began with tears and a bit of pain in my heart — remembering what was and what could have been.


Rasheed’s favorite baby picture of himself.

Of course it’s sad not hearing that big, bold laugh or seeing the joy in his eyes when he opens his presents – no matter how big or how small they may be.

However, I have two choices: to sit and wallow in the pain of my incredible loss or to try to find a way to live in his love and keep it alive while simultaneously keeping myself alive.

I’m choosing the more difficult path of trying to smile and be grateful that God blessed me with an amazing man who loved me with his whole heart.

Though you may often see me smiling please know it doesn’t mean life is easy or perfect. It’s simply a decision I’ve made — to try to seize every single moment God grants me and to try to see the good and the possibilities that still exist around me, because they do.

Today I’m celebrating the birth of a man who changed me for the better. I encourage you to celebrate your loved one’s heavenly day in whatever way feels right to you – even if the world doesn’t quite understand. There will be tears, and don’t be ashamed of that; they’re proof of a heart that has been loved.


I asked a few women who I am proud to call wisters (widow sisters) and widow advocates about their own paths and how they celebrated and still celebrate heavenly birthdays. I LOVE the real, raw truth they shared:

Karen Millsap is an entrepreneur, speaker, blogger and awesome mama. She has walked this widow walk for four and a half years. Her husband, Richard, was born on March 18th.

1. How did you celebrate Richard’s first heavenly birthday?

We sent up red (Richard’s favorite color) birthday balloons, with notes written on them, to the party in heaven. We also had his favorite cake: red velvet.

2. How did you celebrate the next one(s)?

Same (every year we do balloons and cake), and every birthday night I’m in bed crying – yep.

3. How did you celebrate YOUR first birthday without him?

I had a girlfriend who was living in Turks & Caicos, so running away sounded like the perfect plan – isolation in a beautiful destination. Buuuut I lasted one day, then decided I wanted to get home to my son. I changed my flight to leave early and cut a five day trip to two and a half days. So on my birthday I cut cake with my son and my parents and was on the couch crying, happy to be home, and missing Richard.

4. Advice for a wister trying to get through the first birthday without him/her?

Do whatever feels right. Early on it was hard to “celebrate” and I just wanted to be alone. Now I’ve decided to take back my joy. Caleb and I celebrate all birthdays with fun and special moments, but don’t get it twisted, even though we have LOTS of fun, by the end of the night (or sometimes the next day) I have some sort of crying episode wishing my husband was still here to enjoy these special memories with us. And that’s okay.  Eventually crying episodes don’t happen as often or last as long; we never stop grieving, we just learn how to manage it in our lives.


Roni Hollis is an amazing educator, farmer’s wife, author and boy mom. She’s walked this widow walk for three years and three months. Her husband, Mike, was born on February 7th.

1. How did you celebrate Mike’s first heavenly birthday?

We held a huge event at our farm/house with family and friends. We had a bonfire, food, and then released lanterns to commemorate his first heavenly birthday.  I baked his favorite cake, chocolate with chocolate frosting, put candles on it and we sang to him. We had photos of us and of our family all around our house.  We wrote messages on the lanterns.

2. How did you celebrate the next one(s)?

The second birthday we did the same, but on a much smaller scale.  The last birthday we celebrated was just Conner and me.  We baked the cake, ate it for breakfast, wrote messages on balloons and sent them to Heaven, sang to him and that was it.

3. How did you celebrate YOUR first birthday without him?

Depressed. Tried to escape reality with a wister, her son, and my son and went for a weekend trip out of town. It didn’t work. I was sad and slept in the hotel.  So, we returned home, where my mom/sister and Mike’s mom and stepdad were waiting with cake and gifts.  I cried, they left quickly, and I went to bed.

4. Advice for a wister trying to get through the first birthday without him/her?

Just take your time. Do what you feel is right; if that means spending the day in bed, then do it. But eventually you will celebrate with a little less sadness.  It will always be there, but maybe not on such a large scale as the first two or three birthdays.  Just breathe and pray and you will get through.


Vivian Liu is an international blogger who lives in Taiwan with her young son. She has walked this widow walk for two years and seven days. Her husband, Avery Chin, was born on August 27th.

1. How did you celebrate Avery’s first heavenly birthday?

I went to Tanya’s music concert that night. Tanya is my husband’s favorite singer, and I love her, too. I left the message on Tanya’s Facebook. She encouraged me so much, and after the concert, his best friend and I went up to the mountain to have some tea and coffee. We missed him. We shared old stories about him – some funny, some sad, whatever. He was a fireman, and he loved mountain climbing. We believed that his soul was there with us that day.

2. How did you celebrate the next one(s)?

I planed a four-day vacation with my son and my closest girlfriends. At that time, I just wanted to pretend I was okay — or looked okay and happy.

3. How did you celebrate YOUR first birthday without him?

My first birthday came very soon after I lost him. I had just given birth not too long before that time. My family celebrated my birthday with me with a big cake. My girlfriends sent a bunch of my favorite red roses to me.

4. Advice for another widow who is trying to get through the first birthday without him/her?

Make yourself as happy as you can. Do something that you will be comfortable with – even simply pretend you’re happy because, I believe that if you pretend long enough it becomes true.


Sabra Robinson is an author, founder of Black Women Widows Empowered, certified grief counselor and a proud mom. She has walked this widow walk for six years. Her husband, Herbert, was born on July 9th.

1. How did you celebrate Herb’s first heavenly birthday?

I cried. I stayed at home. I was hesitant to post his birthday on Social Media for fear of posting ‘too much’ about his death – but, I finally did. I felt great after I did, too! I needed to do it because I received an outpouring of responses. Each year the responses became  more and more and THAT made me look forward to reading what they had to say about him.

2. How did you celebrate the next one(s)?

I honestly could not bring myself to do anything special in the first few years but finally decided to take the kids out to dinner in honor of his birthday.

3. How did you celebrate YOUR first birthday without him?

I went on a cruise. My girlfriend gifted me a cruise that year. It was the perfect birthday gift.

For my second birthday without him, I threw myself a big party – rented a hall, catered it and had a band and a comedian.

4. Advice for a wister trying to get through the first birthday without him/her?

Celebrate and define the birthday that YOU want to celebrate. You know you better than anyone else.



Go Duke! We’re headed to the #Elite8 this year!! I know RW is excited!!

*Birthday celebration pictures courtesy of Tiffany Lewis.

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