Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Worth Celebrating

Last year he didn't want to celebrate his birthday - being so close after Christmas (or so he said). "I'm turning eighty next year -- we'll have a party then". I pointed out that his January 5th birthday is always right after Christmas, and that would never change. But it seemed like a plan.

"No presents" he insisted. "There's nothing I need; I don't need one single more shirt or sweater. I just want to spend it with the family".

And so my sibs and I rallied our spawn and impressed upon them the importance of them clearing their calendars and making sure they attended. No coaxing required - they were all in.

And so we all planned. We set the date (the Saturday after his actual date), he booked his community clubhouse and then we cut him off from any further details.

We contacted his close friends and colleagues, some former students and family and invited them to contribute to a book we were putting together. Have you ever sat a funeral listening to heart wrenching, moving eulogies in which they express how much the departed meant to them or impacted their life? Eulogies and superlatives are wasted on the dead and funerals. Anything worth saying should be expressed to the ones who truly matter to us. And so we asked people to share...and share they did. We knew the greatest gift we could give him would be the knowledge that he impacted lives; that he made a difference and that he was heard.

The hall filled up with wide smiles; balloons hovered above; Jeff took his seat and the grand piano and the party unfolded. We laid our our potluck smorgasbord of lasagna, baked beans, pulled pork, chicken, roasted potatoes and veggie chili - comfort food prepared with love from loved ones. Harmony and hubby performed "I Understand" and we sang some favourite family songs.

And then the elder addressed our tribe. He told them of his humble beginnings and happy childhood. He reminded them that they came from good, strong, resilient stock that valued family and relationships above things. His kids and grandkids sat wide-eyed while he quietly spoke, hanging on every word. He still has that authoritative air about him...

Every member of our family was there to show him what he means to all of us. We celebrated him and reveled in the warmth and love that was palpable in the room. We all need more reasons to celebrate, and every birthday is worth celebrating.

And so we came together to celebrate our patriarch and in doing so, gave ourselves the gift one another; the collective strength, security and unconditional love that comes with belonging to a tribe like ours.

And for that, I am truly grateful.

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