It so happens that this column is being published one day after my birthday. Happy Birthday to me! I reached a certain age at which time I downplayed birthdays. Getting older, not wanting to make a big deal of anything for myself, trying to think outward instead of inward with concerns over being ‘me’ focused.
Now I’ve learned a thing or two more. In that extra learning, I’ve come to appreciate having another year on this mortal earth. It’s worth celebrating the learning, experience, fun, and frailties that make us more of who we want to become!
C.S. Lewis once said, ‘When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be what, in fact, will not make us happy.’ Each year of learning more of what God wants me to be gives me one more year of being happy.
The scriptures don’t say anything much about birthdays, with the exception of the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ. Many times, I think about all that must have occurred, all that was felt, all that was changed when the very Prince of Peace made His entrance into mortality to be our Exemplar, Friend, and Redeemer.
Otherwise, the scriptures are quiet. They speak of many – waaaay back in the day – living hundreds of years. We learn that with years should come wisdom, and that we should “put off childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11.) No stories of cakes and balloons, of big parties and such. So I celebrate differently, and the cake and such? That’s optional.
I plan to celebrate two specific things on my “Happy Birthday to me” (yesterday):
- I celebrate my mother, who brought me into this world.
She married and left her family at age 18, knitting her heart to my father who was 21 and in the military service. Far from home as a 20 year old, I was born.
- She tended me, taught me, scolded me, read and sang to me, and taught me many important lessons.
- I loved to hold her hand. I loved to watch her play the piano. I loved to hear her sing and to laugh.
- As I grew older, and I moved far away from home- first for schooling and then when I moved back out west- I missed seeing that light in her eyes. I missed watching that amazing persistent attitude that got her through so many trials.
- And then, in January 2000, my mom passed from this mortal earth, at a relatively young age. But she’d fought cancer, and gone through some 20 Plus surgeries. Through them all, she kept her faith, her bearing, and her sense of humor. She did change, of course, with the altered body and the many difficulties she bore. But she carried on until she could no longer do so. She tried her best to be her best for the rest of us.
So, I celebrate my ‘momma’ and deep tears of love and appreciation will fill my eyes on Thursday, just as they do while writing this. I suppose it’s a love letter from a daughter to her mother.
A mother who showed love the likes of which Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke: “No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child.” (G. C. Oct. 2015)
- I celebrate the blessing that I am still enjoying the physical body I was given.
Granted, it’s not cranking quite as well as it used to, but I’ve had another year to appreciate 365 days of living and learning. Having been so close to leaving this frail existence a couple of years ago, I now marvel that a pacemaker keeps me upright, that medical advancements and medications keep various parts of the body working and moving, and vision remains, even when it seems contrary to science.
- The words from Luke 22:31-32 have become personal to me, and much more tender: “And the Lord said …. I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” I’ve thought more often, and deeply, of those who went before me – in scripture, in history, and in my family- with scars and wounds inwardly and outwardly, and yet persevered. Faith need not become frail simply because the body becomes so.
- Having always been a person who loves to laugh, I’ve learned to capitalize on it even more. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. “Proverbs 17:22.)
I’ll say! A sense of humor is priceless- especially when we’re going through hard things, and our bodies are not able to do all that we, in our mind and heart, would like to do. Humor heals. If not the body sometimes- then certainly the state of mind.
I suppose I will owe all of you an account of how well I did or did not do with my specific celebrating. But I do know this: the days and weeks and years are sweeter to me now. They matter more. Having come so close to leaving this world on a number of occasions, it puts things in perspective. I’ve especially gained a deeper focus on eternal things, personal growth, and my measure of gratitude.
I know there is wonder and amazement ahead of me when I am ‘called Home”. I will see my beloved mom and dad again, as well as many other loved ones. I will be free of physical pain and limitations in body and in voice. Hallelujah! So I don’t fear death at all.
I’m simply not quite ready. If the Lord sees fit, however, to bring me Home, then that will be fine as well.
But right now? Right now I am celebrating another day of breathing mortal air; of seeing the smiles of my husband and other beloved family and friends; of feeling the sweet, good things that are to be found here; of having one more day to make myself a tiny bit better.
Right now, I’m working harder than ever on having that ‘attitude of gratitude’ of which President Thomas Monson has spoken. I’m appreciating the days I feel like bouncing along rather than shuffling, or utilizing my full-on singing voice rather than muted one. I’m celebrating this beautiful planet we call home, and finding as much joy as possible, even in contrary situations. It makes me happy. It deepens the thankfulness for the Eternal Plan, granting me the option of being born to a good mom & dad, and growing while serving the folks placed in my path.
Happy Birthday to me!