Happy Birthday to you! Congratulations on living another year on planet Earth! You just a few minutes ago had a phone conversation with your youngest son, James, who said, “So, are you having a big party or something?” Ha! “No,” you replied. “At 51, I’m just happy to be around for another year.” And then he said, “Yeah, after turning 21, I realize that all my next few birthdays are really no big deal.” (loosely paraphrased). But the honest truth is, you are happy to be “done with 50.” And then you kindly reminded him that 25 is a pretty big one, as are all the decade bdays, so don’t lose hope.
I remember, Mary, many childhood birthdays in the frozen tundra of Northern Minnesota, when, two weeks after Christmas, your birthday was not THAT big of a deal. I remember frozen pipes one year even, disrupting your birthday dinner. But I also fondly remember your mom making your requested dinner, which was either Sarmas (stuffed cabbage rolls) or the old 70’s favorite, Beef Stroganoff. Yum. (I could go for some of that right now.)
Mary, I like your tradition the last few years of spending your birthday largely with just YOU. After the roar of the holidays, it’s nice to have the house alone, the kids gone, husband at work, just to “be” and to remind yourself of just how damn lucky you are to be here…one more year.
I like these days together to reflect on your life: the challenges you’ve faced, the goals you’ve set and met, the ones you haven’t that you continue to strive for, and for the goodness of God and His grace in your life…for one more year.
Not to sound depressing! That’s not at all why I’m writing to you. Another day on Earth is a privilege only allotted to so many. Many lives are cut short for myriad reasons. You are a lucky one to have that “one more day.”
So today, dear Mary, celebrate who you are at 51. You have a good man who truly loves you and stands by you each and every day. You have 3 beautiful children who have grown into beautiful adults. You still have your parents, and two siblings you wouldn’t trade for anything. And your dog, Biff, he adores you. Your friends are there for you. Even old friends from the past think of you fondly. The ones who don’t, well, we don’t need to worry about them.
Having a January birthday is a blessing. You get to celebrate another brand new year in two different ways: a fresh start in another 365 day calendar, and another year to be yourself, accepting who you are, where you are, and most importantly, whose you are. You are a child of God, as are all the other people who cross your path, so give them grace and love them equally.
Mary, cherish today and every day. Even when you’re sick, sad, or lonely. Having feelings that aren’t “well” are just another sign that you are alive! And the happy times, they are there for you as well, even if you don’t recognize them. Give thanks for January 7, 1964. And be the best YOU you can be.