A Celebration of Life

8-birthday-cupcake-ruth-black

I felt a bit emotional on my birthday this year. Perhaps it was because it came at the end of a week which began with a gathering of dear ones who were all saying goodbye to our very good friend, Bill. I found myself savoring each moment of my special day with a great deal more intensity than usual. I genuinely appreciated the Facebook greetings and the visits from loved ones. The thoughtfulness that abounded was moving, but mostly it was a sign to me of how genuinely wonderful people are. I was reminded by the events of the week that when all is said and done it is in the memories that we share with all of the folks that we encounter along the way that our greatest joys unfold.

My departed friend Bill had done well in this world. He used the gifts of his intellect to build a life of purpose that provided him and his family with comfort, but mostly it was his love and generosity of spirit that marked him as a great man. The stories about him that abounded all told of an adventurous soul who never forgot to be thoughtful and kind. He was a man of almost unflinching routine who nonetheless set aside time in every single day to keep his friendships alive, many of which extended all the way back into his boyhood. He took nothing with him at the end, but the riches of honor, respect and genuine love that were poured out in the stories people told of him were greater than all of the gold and jewels stowed away with King Tut. I suppose that as I listened to the recounting of his impact I sensed that we each have reasons for existing that may seem small and insignificant until the moment when we put the sum total of our efforts together. In the case of Bill, the final tally was as remarkable as anyone might ever hope to accomplish.

I pondered such ideas all last week and my thoughts culminated on Saturday, the beginning of my sixty ninth year. It was a gloriously beautiful day albeit a bit warmer than the one on which I was born. My mother always spoke of how bitterly cold it had been as she gathered pecans in the yard in front of the garage apartment that she and my father were renting in the Heights neighborhood of Houston on November 18, 1948. The war had ended and the world was in a state of rebuilding. Mama and Daddy were like millions of young folk who were starting families and hoping that they we would never again witness the violence that had brought so much pain. Mama wore my father’s wool army coat because she had grown so great with child that her own would no longer button. She had at first thought that the backache that she was feeling was the result of all of the bending that she had been doing as she filled a paper grocery bag with nuts that she intended to use to bake goodies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When her water broke she knew that my arrival was imminent.

I thought of my mother and my father a great deal this past weekend. They would have been quite proud of the beautiful brood that resulted from their love. Almost all of their offspring gathered during the day and the evening to wish me well.

The celebrating began with lunch with my father-in-law and his beautiful second wife. He is our patriarch and his delightful sense of humor never fails to fill our home with laughter. I wanted to tarry at the table with him so that I might freeze the special time we were having into the memory bank of my mind. It was great fun as we listened to stories of the army cook who created meals for his regiment during the Korean War. Papa hid the pain of war in the humorous tales of the guys who fought with him. We felt so joyful and fortunate to still have him with us.

Later in the day my brothers and their children and grandchildren also came to wish me well. I shared the birthday celebration with my little niece Lorelai who is a bright and sweet as an angel. I delighted at the innocence of her beautiful face lit up as much by her goodness as by the lights of the candles that we blew out together. She is ten and filled with expectation and curiosity. The world lies ahead of her and will no doubt embrace her because she is such a special child. I found myself thinking of my own childhood and how fun it had been.

I tried to take in the wonder of my family that has become ever more lovely with each new person who enters our fold. We are boisterous and filled with genuine feelings for one another. We don’t always get to see each other as much as we would like, but when we do get together an explosion of unadulterated joy erupts. My sisters-in-law are the sisters that I always dreamed of having. My sons-in-law are the young men who provide my daughters and me with rock solid love. My grandchildren and nieces and nephews marvel in one another’s company and I find myself just watching them as they play together. In fact, I felt a bit like an observant fly on the wall all day long as I realized my many blessings that all come packaged in the most wonderful people who are part of my life.

The birthday posts on my Facebook wall poured in all weekend. They came from some whom I had known my entire life, some from my school days, some from coworkers, others from students, still others from neighbors. I had to admit my good fortune as I thought of each of them and I prayed that they all know how much they have meant to me.

I particularly enjoyed a group of photos from a dear teacher friend who has become like family. We had shared a beautiful wedding trip to Cancun back in June with our mutual friends Tim and Dickie. Somehow her camera had captured the exhileration that we were all experiencing on that day and it was quite beautiful. Our unfiltered emotions filled the panorama with the bliss that we were all feeling, and in viewing the images I experienced our pleasure once again.

Another teacher friend posted a greeting that I’m going to use as my mantra during the coming year.

Oops, although this a belated prayer, my prayer remains the same.

 1 Good Health for you and family

2 Financial Blessings

3 Continued Travel Blessings 

4 The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding

I think that I will have an extraordinary time indeed if I were to enjoy the fruition of all of the good wishes that were made for me. I would only add that I hope to have the pleasure of being with my friends and family as often as possible, because they are always the source of my greatest happiness. I simply have no way of being able to thank them for all that they have given me. I only hope that they truly realize how important they are to me.

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