I haven’t had a birthday party since I was about 5 or 6; a shy, quiet child, I feared nobody would show up. As I grew up, there were gatherings, sure, a few friends together. But nothing I would call a full-blown party-until this year.
It all started with one of the Big Dog Ladies. Lizzy (Mike’s pet name for me, but most everyone started calling me Lizzy) Lizzy, she said, what are you doing for your birthday?
Oh, I don’t know Jenny. Maybe barbecue or something.
I’m not sure what happened after that, but suddenly Jenny and Ingrid, her partner in crime when it comes to Making Sure Lizzy Is Enjoying Life, had a party on the go.
And not just any party, oh no. It became a Hawaiian luau, and the only thing missing was a roast pig (next year?). I dare not mention everyone, lest I forget someone, but there was everything from leis to pineapple cups, inflatable parrots and palm trees to hula dancing-yes, hula dancing. Ali the Multi-Talented played ukelele, and sang “Pearly Shells” while our guests hula danced the dance she’d taught them.
There was food, and drink, and cards which I read over and over, and gifts which weren’t necessary but so much appreciated-in particular, a jar of beach rocks from a beach in Newfoundland (yes, there are beaches in NL). It wasn’t til later I realized I was so touched by that as it’s the closest I’ll likely be again to my homeland.
I laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. I watched as everyone mixed and mingled, folks from all walks of life, from 9 months to 70+. (Actually, I called it an Alphabet Birthday because there were people there representing ALS, RCN, LGBTQ, UK, NL, NS, PQ, WHL…)
And not one time, not one single time did I think “Oh, wonder how many of these I have left?”
So how can I possibly thank them for this? It’s taken me nearly a month to write this, searching for the words. A month since my heart has been lit up like someone who’s eaten a pound of hot wings and forgot the antacid. A month since I’ve realized that yes, Lizzy, people really will come out if you have a birthday party.
I heard a story last week of a man who had recently died of brain cancer. He had exhausted all treatment options, but continued to live his life as he always had, in a big way, enjoying everything. The greatest gift he could give his family and friends, I was told, was that he let them know that he was at peace. That he was the same person, and that he was going to live as he always had. And then the person telling me about this gentleman said to me something like “You remind me of him in some ways”.
And I realized that this was it, this is the thank you I’d been trying to give my family and friends. The gift of knowing that I am at peace, more content internally than I’ve ever been. At peace with dying, while still living. Getting past the bad times to focus on the great times. And making the most of what’s left, and all of the blessings that continue to come my way, most of which arrive in the form of this group of incredibly amazing people. Don’t you worry about me, I’m still doing fine.
And I’m already looking forward to next year’s party. XO
(Feature group photo courtesy of JCPD Photography-the Official Photographer of My Birthday)