Two Celebrations of Life on the Same Day – Birthday & Memorial

by Michael Sheehan on January 23, 2011

in Family, General, Opinion

Today is an interesting day for me. For starters, it is my 43rd  birthday. But it is also a somber and reflective day as it was a memorial service and celebration of life for a neighbor of mine that passed away much too early in her life at 41. So my thoughts are mixed and introspective today.

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I woke up this morning with lots of expectations. I was waiting for my wife to give me a kiss with a birthday wish on her lips (which I got). And I was waiting for my 3 daughters to come running in to my bedroom, with hand-made cards clutched in their hands. The day unfolded much the way I had expected. My middle daughter brought me a cup of coffee in bed and I now have 3 creative and beautiful hand-made cards to take into my work to showcase. And there is a pile of kid-wrapped presents sitting on the dining room table. It’s sort of funny how when kids wrap presents, they can practically hermetically seal the present with a roll of scotch tape. (By the way, scotch tape makes a GREAT gift for kids!)

I was happy. I was surrounded by family who were (almost) catering to my every need (I still couldn’t get them to pick up their rooms, despite me saying – It’s MY birthday, do it for ME!). Then my wife and I  headed out from my own celebration of life to another, much different one…that of our neighbor.

Our neighbor passed away a few weeks ago after losing a courageous fight with breast cancer. She was 41 and left behind 2 daughters and a husband. The gathering was touching and packed with friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors and other people who were affected by our neighbor’s life. We heard stories from childhood friends and saw photographs from all parts of her much-too-short life. It was a thought-provoking and a celebration containing many varieties of emotions from tears to laughter.

On my way back home from the ceremony, I spent time thinking about what I had seen and heard, and then suddenly felt very selfish. I had all of these expectations on what I wanted on my little celebration of life, or birth in this case. But I realize now that I have everything that I want. Birthdays are not about being pampered or getting gifts, they are about celebrating what you have around you, the love of family and friends, your shared experiences and your memories of time spent together.

So my gift to those of you reading this on my birthday or after is this, cherish those moments together and don’t get worked up about what you did or didn’t get, or what you did or did not do. You job in life is to create shared memories and experiences. This can be with your friends, your family, with acquaintances, with coworkers or even with strangers. When you do eventually leave this physical world, you will live on forever through the memories of those around you.

My birthday wish to you – live life to the fullest and have no regrets.

Thanks for reading.

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