There ought to be a law somewhere. Nothing bad can happen on your birthday. No one is allowed to treat you badly. The world must stop and pay you homage.
Okay, overstated, I know. But wouldn’t it be nice if the world would let you pause on the edge of life’s frenetic highway to celebrate for one day? Isn’t that what all those happy birthday greetings intimate? “Hope your day is special, fantastic, beautiful, blessed . . . . “
Sometimes life doesn’t listen to the birthday greeting messages. The ebb and flow of life is no respecter of the special meaning of a day.
That’s how it was for the first half of my special day this year. A gift of a mid-afternoon cup of regular coffee in a hospital waiting room the day before robbed me of sleep that night. Worry, ahem, concern over the church member who had been in surgery (hence the cup of coffee) snitched sleep from the other end of my night. Demands and broken commitments, oblivious to my fatigue and other needs, battered me from several directions. It was no happy day.
But—I was alive. Alive to feel the pain, frustration and the grace moments where I had to allow people to be people. Amidst the chaos, I realized an important truth about birthday celebrations.
Birthdays are not about celebrating a day. Birthdays are about celebrating the years you’ve been given.
Birthday celebrations are not what happens to me on that day. It’s about how I approach the day, whether I’m willing to rejoice and revel in life no matter what minor (yes, Karen, they were minor) irritations come my way.
Birthdays are a commemoration of life. When it comes to life, I have lots to celebrate.
After my fall in a hotel parking lot, nurse friends and doctors told me how my accident could have been so much worse. If my head had been tilted a bit more to the right when I smacked into the cement, I probably wouldn’t be writing these words today. The pillows I was carrying at the time protected me from worse injuries, like shattered knee caps. My ophthalmologist described what could have easily happened to my already fragile right eye.
I’m blessed that I’ve enjoyed life at all and a full life at that. My visual impairment is genetic. Several members of my family, including my older sister also have eye issues. If we had been born after 1972 when Roe vs. Wade went into effect, my mother would have had the legal choice to abort me. Because my mother is a Christ-follower and believes in the sacredness of life, she would never do that. Some moms would. Some doctors would encourage such a decision. After all, some would reason, why would a parent want to bring a blind child into the world who would then have to undergo eight childhood surgeries, strapping the family finances and becoming a burden to society? You don’t want to be responsible for a child’s suffering, would you? Yet, if that had happened, I wouldn’t be here. My two beautiful daughters wouldn’t be giving back to the world in the areas of optometry and international student ministry. My husband’s life would have taken a different direction. Yes, Jimmy Stewart, it is a wonderful life.
I am alive. I have stayed alive for over five decades, blessed by God, used by God, and privileged to have done and experienced so many things in my life. It was a special moment to be able to call my mother this year and say, “Thank you for giving me life.”
Birthdays are about the people in my life, all the other lives that touch my life. Throughout my day, I must have had nearly 200 well wishes. Say what you may about the impersonal touch of Facebook greetings. Each person took the time to remember my life and many of those messages said more than just “Happy Birthday.” Every life connects with so many other lives. A birthday is not just a day for me to celebrate myself. It’s a day to celebrate the important people in my life. It’s a day for them to celebrate their connection to me. As I told my mom, she remembers the details of the day of my birth far better than I do!
No matter what happens on the day commemorating my birth, no matter who celebrates with me, I choose to celebrate life! I choose to celebrate the years past, the years remaining, and the eternity God has waiting for me.