As a kid, I loved my birthday.
I loved getting special attention, eating cake, opening presents and even having the occasional birthday party. In the dark ages when I was growing up, we didn’t expect birthday parties every year, and we certainly didn’t expect elaborate parties. Our moms blew up a few balloons and invited the neighbor kids over to play games and eat homemade birthday cake.
After I hit the magical age of 21, I cared less and less about birthdays. By the time I was 30, everyone expected me to be in a bad mood on the day I was expected to celebrate.
To me, birthdays were simply reminders that I was getting older and hadn’t achieved as much as someone my age should have.
I had come to adopt my father’s philosophy about birthdays. He always wondered why we made such a big deal about the day we were born when we didn’t do any of the actual work.
The year that he and my mother were married, he actually sent flowers to my grandmother on my mom’s birthday thanking her what had happened 25 years earlier, Apparently, my grandmother thought he was a little strange, so he never sent her flowers again. But he did continue to raise the same questions from time to time.
I embraced my dad’s philosophy before and after I had my own children.
I considered throwing birthday parties for my kids to be the ultimate test of parenthood. Like most tests, they kept me up at night with worry,and I never enjoyed them. I just didn’t get why birthdays were such a big deal.
That changed a few days ago with one phone call
My friend Stefani, who had been battling cancer for years, had been given 48 hours to live during the week when I was turning 48 years old.
My friend, who threw amazing birthday parties for her daughters and who celebrated her life to the fullest, died the week when I was prepared to once again complain that I was yet another year older.
My friend, who had grown to appreciate the importance of holding our children close, celebrating every moment and creating memories that can live beyond our last breath, gave me one last birthday present.
She reminded me that birthdays aren’t intended to be a reminder of our march toward old age but are actually intended to be a celebration of survival, perseverance and the people who have loved and supported us during those difficult times.
This year, I’m celebrating my birthday because I know Stef would have excepted nothing less.
Here’s to you Stef.