Birth and Anniversary Dates
It was Sunday, February 24th, 2001. My father had just turned 70 years of age at the end of January. In many ways, that was a remarkable triumph, considering how difficult his life had been: being imprisoned in Hungary for 7 years, escaping from Hungary during the 1956 uprising, and starting his life all over again in a new country Canada – all the while suffering from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis which he acquired during his confinement in dark and dank prisons.
Husband and I had just moved into our first house. As was my custom I was hosting the family party. This time, while the main focus was about my father’s birthday, it was also a time to celebrate the other birthdays – my brother’s, mine and my mother’s Name Day.
Although it was a Sunday, I hadn’t gone to church. I was preparing the meal and getting ready for the festivities. At 11:25 a.m. the telephone rang. It was a frantic call from my mother. Her calls came seldom, and generally only when she had a disastrous event to relate.
“Your father is dead!” came her hysterical yet clear, precise words. “The ambulance is taking us to the General Hospital.”
How does that happen? Death! Out of nowhere, all the plans one has underway – suddenly become interrupted. Although I am easily frazzled, when insignificant incidences arise, I have the uncanny knack to assume a sensibly controlled persona, during devastating occurrences.
My response was simply, “I’ll meet you there.”
Before that, however, I had to contact Husband, the Presbyterian Minister who was conducting his regular Sunday worship service in the downtown Ottawa church.
I heard the telephone there ring and ring and ring. It being located in the basement, a good deal of time passed by, before anyone answered. I left the message for Husband to meet at the hospital. Apparently, at that very moment, he was in the midst of his sermon. The subject was on “Death”.
There have been many significant dates in my life. And the ones dealing with death continue to be easily retrieved from the depths of my subconscious: my grandfather died in September of 1953 when he was 61 and I was five – I remember this vividly because I was held up to see him in the coffin. My dear friend Nancy died in December 1975 at the age of 24 having married the love of her life just months before in May. And Husband died in January 2006 also at the age of 61 – with no warning, no preparation on my part.
But I digress. After my father died, my doctor at the time tried to be reassuring that Daddy had lived to a good age, quoting Psalm 90 verse 10 – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten”
Thus, when I reached that significant age of 70 years in early February, 2018 – I came to the realization how privileged I was. These days, “three score years and ten” is no longer the same kind of death sentence that it seemed to be a quarter century ago. These days, many of the Boomer generation are fortunate to be still alive and well at 70. Yet – at the same time, I can’t deny the sad reality. I have now outlived several close friends, Husband as well as my 70-year-old father.
Way back on February 24th, 2001, the party for my father’s 70th birthday was interrupted. And for whatever reason, I felt compelled to honour it – when I turned that age. What I really wanted to do was to thank some of the people in my life, who have been my staunch supporters, since my retirement and my move to Cornwall 15 years ago.
Birth and anniversary dates are important. It gives us the opportunity to visit where we have been in the past and in that way appreciate where we are in the present. I particularly like a quote from Soren Kierkegaard who said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
I think looking back is necessary in all our personal lives, but particularly when we get older. It’s not just about evaluating our life path, but also about validating that we have been here and that somehow, in some way – we are leaving a mark.
As I review my life’s journey, I can’t help but notice that I have always celebrated milestones in my life – and this year, I am again blessed to be still thriving and surrounded by compassionate and caring friends.