Happy Birth Month

I spend most of my days (Monday through Friday) asking people to verify their birth dates to either give them test results, complete their appointment intake, discuss treatment options, or talk about anything confidential. Birthdays are bitter-sweet for many people. It’s a day to mark when our earthly journey began and to celebrate the lives we have lived so far along with the life we have yet to live. As you get older, birthdays sometimes become lackluster and lose their appeal. Many people decide not to celebrate them at all. I have always been a birthday enthusiast and celebrate the whole month of September as my “birth month”, but as I have gotten older (my last birthday in particular), I found it difficult to get excited about the day’s arrival.

When you are a kid, birthdays mean gifts, parties, and attention. When you reach the age of ten, you are finally “in the double digits”. Being a twelve year old means being a preteen. Thirteen is the beginning of teenage years. At sixteen you can get your driving permit. Being eighteen years old means that you are “officially an adult” and being twenty-one makes you legally able to drink and go to clubs (not that that has ever been my choice location to inhabit). But after that, birthdays kind of lose their meaning to some people. I have seen women worry about their 30th birthday approaching…and then their 40th. Working with women who are older than me means that I have heard all about “the change” that is menopause and any mid-life crisis that may arise. We focus so much on youth and beauty that sometimes it can be overwhelming to have your birthday as a reminder that your youth is slipping away.

Whenever I tell someone about my over-the-top celebration of my birthday, they are shocked and ask why. Let me tell you why…Because every year that I get to celebrate my birthday is another year that I made it out of this crazy whirlwind alive. It’s another year of love, laughter, happiness, tears, sadness, anger, frustration, heartbreak, excitement, growth, and so much more that I have accomplished. It’s another year of meeting new people, learning new things, and spending time with the people that I hold dearest to my heart. Sure, I am getting older, but why is that a bad thing? Some people aren’t lucky enough to ever make it to my age. I know that I almost didn’t. I could have been stuck as my sixteen or twenty-year-old self in the memories of those I have met, but instead I get to celebrate the life that I am so incredibly fortunate to live. I get to kiss my husband goodbye every morning, be frustrated and then in awe of my Mia puppy, pay bills for a house I call a home, and do my best to help the people around me. No, the sun doesn’t shine brightly every day, and yes, there may be rain clouds that curtain my perspective at times, but I am so grateful to be able to have those bad days because that means that I know what good days feel like too.

So this is my plea to you…please celebrate your birthday. Hell, celebrate your birth month, because life is too short to care about being older and too precious to not appreciate the little things. You have made it another year here on this planet and that’s worth celebrating.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

One Last Breath

I have been thinking about death a lot in the past few weeks. How does it feel to have death’s door opening for you? What happens after death? Why do we, as the loved ones of death’s tenants, grieve the way that we do? There is so much that is unknown about death to the average layman. I have been thinking about my death too. I don’t want that day to approach anytime soon, but when it is my time to pass, what are my wishes? It may never be the “perfect” time to have these conversations, but I do think that now is as good of a time as any.

As I wrote previously, my step-grandmother passed away on December Thirty-First. Just last week we said our goodbyes at the viewing and funeral. But death doesn’t give anyone reprieve. Today, January Thirteenth, my great-grandmother took her final breath and drifted into the unknown.

I feel sad, but I feel okay. Death was a drawn-out process for her – like I said with my step-grandma, Dementia is a brutal disease that strips away a person’s identity. I have so many great memories with my grandma. She is the grandparent that I spent the most time with as a child. My great-grandparents have lived on the same property as my dad for over twenty years. Every Sunday was a family dinner at their house. Every holiday was spent together. Half of my summers were spent with my great-grandma for years. The world has lost a great teacher/wife/grandmother/friend/mother… and she has finally found peace.

Everyone’s death is treated differently depending on religion, culture, the departed one’s wishes, family beliefs… In English class last semester, we read quite a bit about not only the process of preparing a body after death, but also about how differently death can be celebrated.

That got me thinking…why, in my experience, do we wear all black? Why is it such a solemn occasion? This is where my ideas stemmed from about how I want my death (and life) to be celebrated. Death and grieving is already such a sad and painful experience without the services. I want my funeral to be a celebration of my life here on Earth. I want my loved ones to know that, regardless of how long my journey has been (will be), it has been magnificent. I don’t want everyone dressed in black – I want them to wear what makes them feel beautiful regardless of color or pattern. I want them to share the stories that remind them of the kind of person I was (am). I want them to laugh and I want them to be together. There will be no somber music or preaching. I want this to be a time that they can reminisce on the happy moments that we shared instead of mourning my death. I want them to know that I appreciate and love them all dearly and that I am okay.

Life is such a beautiful thing and deserves to be celebrated.

I love you and miss you, grandma. I am glad you found peace.

Love Always,

Elizabeth