My husband and I are not birthday party kind of people. So when his birthday recently approached I was not surprised by his answers to my following questions:
Me: Do you want anything special for your birthday?
Me: Do you want to go out to eat?
Him: Sure, if you do.
Me: What kind of cake do you want?
Him: It doesn’t matter.
And so the day of his birthday came. It was a particularly busy day for me with an already full week of meetings and pastoral visits made more pressing by a funeral to officiate in just two days. As I went about my day, though, my husband’s birthday was still front and center in my mind. I just couldn’t get over this feeling that I wanted to do something special even if we weren’t birthday party kind of people.
Seeing the hours of the day slip by quickly I began realizing that even if I had an idea for his birthday there was no time in which to execute it.
A drive to the shopping mall to pick up a special gift was out of the question because the stores weren’t close by and the traffic to get to the stores would make the trip even longer and more frustrating.
So what was I to do? I was at a loss for ideas and had no more time to think as I was heading to the assisted living facility to visit a woman recovering from knee surgery.
As I made my way through the large gathering room to get to her room, I took notice of the residents sitting there in their wheelchairs, perhaps waiting for a scheduled visit from a loved one or perhaps just waiting for any visit from anyone.
I made it a point to look each one in their eyes and to smile and say “hello.” It is amazing the healing power a simple hello has when spoken to someone in need of a hello. Some smiled back at me; while others looked surprised that I was even noticing them. But notice I did. I noticed eyes clouded with memories of yesteryear. I noticed frail bodies and white hair. I noticed the passing of time right in front of me and I slowed my rushed steps and realized something. I realized I needed to become a birthday party kind of person because the passing of yet another year is something not to ignore. It is something to honor. It is something to recognize. It is something to be thankful for. Just then I remembered the poignant words of my high school friend who wrote on her blog many years ago, “Today I got to celebrate my 41st birthday and for that I am very thankful to God.” She never got to blow out 42 candles.
I looked around at the sea of wheelchairs all around me and wondered how many birthdays have come and gone without being celebrated? How many birthdays have I let come and go without any recognition? It was then I knew what to do for my husband’s birthday.
With little time to spare, I rushed over to the grocery store and picked up a cake and some candles. I then found a birthday card. After that, I ran to the dollar store next to the grocery store and grabbed a bag of blue balloons and the tackiest “Happy Birthday” banner I could find.
I sped home so that I could put up the decorations and get the cake on the table. Now for the card…what to say? Hmmm….
All of sudden Sofie, our bumbling Bernese Mountain dog, hopped off the couch and with tail wagging happily stood at the door. I looked up and asked, “Where’s Daddy?” She began jumping back and forth with joy as my husband came through the door.
“Surprise!” I shouted as he looked at the balloons all around. He was indeed surprised. After a light meal of whatever we could find in the fridge, it was onto the cake. But before the cake he opened my card. Since I have always struggled with gift-giving ideas, I wrote in his card three birthday gifts for him: 1.) Dinner at a restaurant of his choice, 2.) A movie date with his choice of movie and, 3.) All of my love forever and ever.
And with the candles blown out and the cake cut, it was then my husband and I became birthday party kind of people. For another year is a gift from God and moments to pause and celebrate what we have should never be taken for granted.
This is indeed the day the Lord has made. Let us alway rejoice and be glad in it.