A year ago, Dad’s birthday fell two weeks after he died, one week after his Celebration of Life.
My mom celebrated his birthday by arranging for everyone in the local coffee shop to get free coffee that morning. And she took gifts of appreciation to the nurses at the local hospital.
Birthdays weren’t a huge deal when I was growing up. I definitely felt like it was a special day, and everyone celebrated, but…the world didn’t stop. No matter how extravagant a celebration or gift, the world stops for no one.
My dad (and mom) rarely asked for anything for their birthdays. They always said they didn’t need anything. It’s not that they had everything possible. It’s that they had what they needed and much of what they wanted.
They were thankful to celebrate another year of life.
Birthdays are celebrations of life. We don’t have to wait until someone dies to celebrate his or her life. We can celebration others’ lives and our own today and every day.
Give a gift today. Celebrate life. Extend a hand, encouragement, and smile. Have a conversation. Listen well. Look someone in the eyes and tell him or her what you’d say if you knew he or she wouldn’t be around tomorrow. Write a note of appreciation. Be kind to a stranger.
Every day is someone’s birthday. Every day, we can learn, grow, and start something new. Every day, we can celebrate life.
A year ago, I spoke at my dad’s celebration of life.
It was one of the most difficult and easiest things I’ve done. Difficult, because I had to choose what to say. Easy, because I had a lot of options to choose from. Difficult, because I didn’t know if I could emotionally get through it. Easy, because I knew Dad would want me to speak.
I woke up that morning with two thoughts:
“It’s not everyday I get to speak about my dad’s life.”
And “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
I realized I was wrong about the first thought. Yes, I’d only get one chance to speak about my dad’s life here on earth, but I get to speak about my heavenly Dad’s life every single day. And what I needed to say that day had to do with both. I had to honor both. I didn’t need to make it more spiritual or create a sermon. It needed to be authentic with doses of hope and laughter. I realized the words I’d say were way less important than the reasons I said them.
I couldn’t say them in my own wisdom or strength.
My dad had given me all the wisdom and strength he could while he was living. I still carry it with me.
And God continues to give me the wisdom and strength I need for every day and every situation.
On that day, I stood at the intersection where all that wisdom and strength collided.
What I said wasn’t perfect. Others could have done a better job. But that’s okay with me.
I celebrated dad’s life with the people who loved him the most. And as I looked at some of the faces in the church that day, I saw God’s love for me in the faces of people who love me. And I felt comfortably weak, because He is strong.