Today our youngest turns 21 years old. I remember the day he left my body and entered the world. The labor pains started about 530 in the morning. I got up took a shower, did a little reading accompanied by breathing and then woke my husband. I image that he called my mother to come and be with the girls. It was lightly snowing and my husband decided to stop for gas. Michael did not keep us waiting very long as he entered the world at 1025AM that Thursday morning.
Although the new season began well over a year ago, there is something significant about our youngest child turning 21 for me today. From the time Michael turned 13, Dan’s little mantra for me was, “He is becoming a man.” When he turned 16 I was placed in a position to be his boss and in that setting it transformed the way I looked at my son. He still needed some training and guidance but during that spring I came to respect, appreciate, and rely on my son to be a responsible young man. I was able to see him as a man in the making and God put me in a place to be a part of it.
Michael is a lover of God, of people and the beauty that is all around us. He is compassionate and thoughtful. I am proud of him.
While I don’t know how much reading of Henri Nouwen Michael has done, I thought that he would appreciate this piece about birthdays.
Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone: “Thank you for being you.” Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday we do not say: “Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.” No, we say: “Thank you for being born and being among us.”
On birthdays we celebrate the present. We do not complain about what happened or speculate about what will happen, but we lift someone up and let everyone say: “We love you!”
I know a friend who, on his birthday, is picked up by his friends, carried to the bathroom, and thrown clothes and all into a tub full of water. Everyone eagerly awaits his birthday, even he himself. I have no idea where this tradition came from, but to be lifted up and “re-baptized” seems like a very good way to have your life celebrated. We are made aware that although we have to keep our feet on the ground, we are created to reach the heavens, and that, although we easily get dirty, we can always be washed clean again and our life given a new start.
Celebrating a birthday reminds us of the goodness of life, and in this spirit we really need to celebrate people’s birthdays every day, by showing gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, gentleness, and affection. These are ways of saying: “It’s good that your are alive: it’s good that your are walking with me on this earth. Let’s be glad and rejoice. This is the day that God has made for us to be and to be together.”
Without a doubt, I can say, “Michael Mullaney I am so glad that you were born, hanging out with you is always a delight and I love you!”