Friday, April 24, 2020 – Still live to blog after 66 years
Today I’m celebrating my birthday while sheltering-in-place. Well, “celebrating” isn’t the right word actually. “Admitting,” “acknowledging,” “recognizing,” or “confirming” are probably more accurate. Of course, sheltering-in-place isn’t how I usually spend my birthday but, actually, it’s okay.
My birthday is nothing like Clemencia’s. She LOVES to celebrate her birthday. One of her favorite things is to go to Chidos, a local Tex Mex restaurant, where the wait staff come out with a gigantic sombrero, put it on her head, and sing happy birthday to her. Honestly, if she could do that every day of her birthday celebration, I think she would. I say “every day of her birthday” because Clemencia does not have just one day. Nope. She typically has at least the whole month of March, through her birthday on March 26th, and stopping only on April 23rd because she doesn’t want to step on my birthday. Did I mention she LOVES her birthday?
I really enjoy Clemencia’s birthday but I’m not a big fan of my own. I never have been and I don’t imagine I will ever be. My birthday is done quite differently. Usually Clemencia plans a short, small family celebration in the days before or after my birthday. On my birthday, if I’m not sheltering in place, I spend the whole day by myself – or at least most of it. I start my day with breakfast at a local diner and then I either go golfing or I go for a long excursion into the country. I often drive into Western Maryland or West Virginia just to get away to the mountains for the scenery. I get lunch along the way and usually end the day in Westminster, Maryland, a small town that reminds me of Burlington, Iowa near where I grew up. Nothing special. Nothing spectacular. No expectations. No fuss. It is a very reflective day for me. It’s just the way it is and just the way I like it. So save your birthday cards and don’t bother shipping any gifts via Amazon. Cash on the other hand is always welcome! 🙂
So what’s the deal with my birthday? Why do I run off like I’m trying to run away from it? In a way, that’s exactly what I’m doing. However, it is not for the reason you might be imagining. I don’t mind growing older. I’ve been expecting, and hoping, to grow older all of my life. Aging does not bother me…certainly it is more appealing than the alternative.
I just find a celebration of my own birthday…well…embarrassing. With regard to my own birthday I suffer from an extreme form of Midwestern self-deprecation. It just doesn’t feel right for me to celebrate an event that I was too young to remember and which I did nothing to contribute to. I just, like, showed up!
The event I’d really like to be able to celebrate is my life…at the time of my death. I know…that is not very realistic. By that time, though, I think I’ll feel like there is something I had done worth celebrating. In fact, not only do I want a celebration, I want a New Orlean’s Second Line!
A Second Line would be the most rare of occurrences at a Quaker Memorial Meeting for Worship. However, it is not inconsistent with the spirit of those memorials which are meant to be celebrations of life. Because there is no minister involved, anyone in attendance is invited to speak in remembrance of the deceased. You usually hear heart warming memories, surprising anecdotes, and outright hilarious stories about the person. Frankly, it is hard to leave a Quaker memorial meeting feeling sad. Most often you feel glad you had the opportunity to know the person.
My birthday is a reflective day for me but, just to be clear, I don’t usually reflect on my death. I suspect my reflection this year may be a result of living in the time of COVID-19 with a lot of death around us. It may also be because I have a higher than normal comfort level with death than most folks, having worked in my youth with my dad as a gravedigger (see a recent previous blog post). Additionally, early in my career I served as a pastor for a church in rural Iowa. In that role I often had to be with people who were dying. I was a very young man then, in my early 20s. Still, in those times, I felt no fear and no discomfort. Instead I felt a deep sense of honor and privilege to be with them in that most sacred of spaces through which we all must pass.
In this moment of birthday reflection and writing, I stopped briefly to do a couple of Google searches. I was surprised to learn that I could have a living funeral if I wanted to. I may have to give that some serious consideration…as long as I can have a Second Line!
During this pandemic, be like Darth Vader…wear a mask…don’t visit your children…be socially distant…follow orders.
The Adventures of Chickenman Continue
In Episode 9, Chickenman (aka mild mannered shoe salemans Benton Harbor) tersely questions a suspect.
The Sounds of Sirens by The Kiffness
The Kiffness is an electronic act from South Africa that has been sidelined by the Coronavirus. The founder, David Scott, has been using his down time to do some fun parodies as a diversion. Check more his stuff out on YouTube or at his website.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, remember, I still take cash for my birthday. 🙂