Reflections on a ‘big’ birthday



Fran Ostendorf, EditorI recently celebrated a milestone birthday. Those who know me personally know  which one it is.  For those of you who don’t, you’ll just have to guess as I’m not revealing which milestone I’ve achieved.

Suffice it to say, that this birthday has had more of an impact than most others. Before the big day, I waffled between wanting to bury my head in the sand and shouting from the hilltops. My family wouldn’t let me do the former. Or the latter, which really isn’t in my character anyway. But they gathered from near and far last weekend, and they stayed for several days. It was fun; I am lucky they are able to swoop in and remind me of the network that exists.

This has really made me think of my grandmother who lived to see 104. She always said that every birthday was worth celebrating and that is exactly what she did. From 90 onward, she threw a yearly family party for herself. She planned the menu, ordered the cake and was quite upset if everything didn’t go as she planned it. We have fond memories of these gatherings that pulled family from across the country to the town where our family has its roots.

For many of our forefathers and mothers, the birthday I’m staring at was nothing. Abraham was 175. Sarah gave birth to Isaac at 90 and lived to 127. Though there are questions about her age, Rebekah may have been 155 when she died. What was the meaning of their advanced years? Was this really a story; meant to teach a lesson? Life was hard in Biblical times. And the medical science as we know it today was nonexistent. Perhaps people just thought about aging differently.

Despite advanced medical science, we have to deal with pollution, chemicals and all the associated toxins that can contribute to illness and even aging. Still, a fairly common birthday greeting is “May you live to be 120,” which happens to be the age at which Moses died. I heard that wish a few times recently.

Would I like to live that long? That’s a difficult question to answer. With sound mind and body, perhaps. I would certainly see much change in the world and have many opportunities to contribute to that change and more time to do some good.

Those sometimes scary but often insightful milestone birthdays give you a chance to think about the big picture things, especially when you are surrounded by loving family members.

I’ll try to take from it that I’m lucky to have such a network of support, and lucky just to have made each milestone. Like all new beginnings, it was also an opportunity to take stock and gain perspective on both the past and future.

So my advice to you is to celebrate even those birthdays you dread and take from them the beauty and comforts that they bring. It’s enough to help you forget you are aging!