Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Happiest Birthday

After a horrific couple of months with major surgery, continuing chemotherapy, multiple hospitalizations, a brush with death, and a fall with painful and lingering injuries, my friend and neighbor Phyllis Skurda has emerged in triumph to celebrate her 74th birthday this week.


She spent her birthday enjoying calls from family and friends and treating a group of friends and family to a sumptuous feast at her favorite Chinese restaurant -- celebrating not only reaching another birthday -- but also her good fortune in friendships.

"What a wonderful surprise we had in moving here two years ago," she said, lifting a Coke in toast of a circle of friends and neighbors. "I feel I've known you people all my life and you've all had such an impact on my life. And I want to celebrate each one of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done, in very individual ways, to help me so much the past few months."

                                     Phyllis and Walter Skurda - March 20, 2012            

And as I listened -- and watched tears glistening in the eyes of some of the friends gathered -- I thought that Phyllis had a point: in addition to being feted for reaching yet another birthday, one's birthday is an excellent time to remember our parents with love, and to express gratitude and thanks to the loved ones around us for all they do to make the passages and challenges of our lives bearable, interesting and maybe even fun and rewarding.

We may welcome birthdays as milestones and accomplishments. Remember how delicious it was to be 16 at last and to get that long anticipated driver's license? Or to turn 18 or 21 to be seen as a young adult. I remember actually looking forward to my 30th birthday -- which in reality was uniquely awful due to some difficult life circumstances at the time -- simply because I thought that being 30 would mean that people I met professionally would begin to take me more seriously. And I look forward to my 67th next month because I will then be older than my parents ever were -- and can put to rest that nagging little anxiety about following in my parents' footsteps with sudden cardiac arrest and death at 66.

But now, thanks to Phyllis' example, there will be a new aspect to my birthday this year -- and to Bob's birthday, three days after my own. This year, our birthdays will be occasions to give thanks: to our bodies for surviving, even thriving, through another year; to our parents for not only giving us life, but also a good start in life. And we're grateful for our friends -- both old and new -- who make such a wonderful difference every day of the year.

On our birthdays this year, we'll simply remember to tell them so.

And, in the meantime, here's to Phyllis -- and her happiest birthday yet!


  1. What a refreshing way to think about birthdays! There truly is much to celebrate. Happy birthday to Phyllis!

  2. As we get over there seems to be a tendency to think of them as 'milestones' instead of a 'celebration' and a day of 'thanksgiving'. Your post is a lovely reminder of that. Best wishes to your lovely friend -- and do let us know when your special 'celebration' is???

  3. I'm not sure if my comment went through or not??

  4. Another truly valuable post to keep and be reminded how we ought to celebrate our birthdays...thanking those who've given us life, friendship and who have enriched our lives. Thank you.

  5. You have such an eloquent way of writing and saying what many of us can't put in words. The older we get our friendships run so deep and we treasure what that friend brings into our life.

  6. Dear Kathy, . . . thank you for this timely reminder. My 76th birthday is less less than two weeks away and your words today reminded me, once again, of all I have to be grateful for. Peace.

  7. What a novel way to look at birthdays. Phyllis has been through so much but her gratitude hasn't been damaged at all. She looks marvelous.
    I will try to remember that when my odometer rolls over this year.

  8. I love this. It's quite a different approach to celebrating a birthday than what we are raised with, isn't it? Happy Birthday to your friend!

  9. You're so right. Birthdays are a day to celebrate how you got to this point in your life and to thank all those who have helped.

  10. What a gorgeous lady your friend Phyllis is... Life is so precious --and we all have no guarantees. We need to celebrate each and every day --and make the best of our lives --finding joy in all that we do.

    Happy Birthday to Phyllis.

  11. Kathy.....send birthday greetings to your beautiful neighbor. You are so very right in celebrating birthdays.....after is the most special of days.....the day each of us came into being.



  12. Hear! Hear! I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for friends who picked me up when I was down or gave me a good reason to celebrate! I send you early birthday wishes and many good wishes to your friend Phyllis, who clearly has much for which to be thankful, including you!