Thursday, June 17, 2010

Of birthdays and death anniversaries

There's something about birthdays.

When I was a kid, birthdays were all about gifts and balloons and ice cream and cakes. As I grew older, they were spent in the company of friends and family. The gifts came far and few as there were less parties and ice cream and cakes.

In the Chinese calendar, you're considered 1 year old from the day you're born. And if you follow the lunar year, you celebrate your birthday on a different month and date each year.

Then there's the Roman calendar which we all follow. I celebrate mine every 17th of June each year.

There are traditions which we follow, based on our beliefs. For the Chinese, the _9 of our year is considered special, particularly for the "older" generation. So those who turn 49, 59, 69, and so on and so forth, make a big fuzz about celebrating another decade. Many of us celebrate this either in pomp or in simplicity with the family. They say that celebrating your birthday at this "numerical figure" provided you long life and prosperity.

The Pinoys follow the traditional celebration - 18 years old is considered a debutante. Then there is the royal celebration when one turns 50, 60, 75, 80...and so on and so forth.

Ironically, if I look at either ways of celebrating birthdays, notice how more frequently we tend to celebrate in a more party-like manner as we reach our senior citizen age.

Perhaps we do it because every year after this "magical number" puts us (I hate to say it) a little closer to our grave? Or I would like to think that as we grow older, we thank God for another year of survival or another year of blessings or another year to hold on to.

Today, I look back at all the blessings over the years that the Lord has truly blessed me. There were good times and there were bad. Getting to where I am today was not a paved road. And as I recall the journey, I am grateful for all the rosy paths and the crosses as well. After all, one cannot celebrate happiness if one does not experience misery.

I remember 15 years ago today, I had a small gathering among my closest friends in our house. My father, who was hemiplegic after a stroke 3 years before, was a sight to behold. I had never seen him that happy for me. It was my last birthday with him and he passed away 9 days later in his sleep. He was 59 and was short 2 months to turning 60.

Today, that is how I recall my birthday. A celebration of life and the memory of a man who had been there for me at my best and worst times, who passed away a few days later. It reminds me of our mortality, and how life is truly short and how we become more appreciative of those few moments with people who are special in our lives.

I thank my friends and family who remembered to greet me and wished me well today. You are all special in my life and will always be part of me.

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