I have, for most of my life, been perfectly happy to spend my birthday like any other day of the year, marked only by the good wishes of those near and dear to me. But yesterday, when I turned 61, I think I finally understood what it really means to celebrate.
Sure, there were warm wishes and greetings from friends and family near and far. Yes, there was a small gathering to share a meal and the birthday cake. And yes, there were lovely, thoughtful much-appreciated gifts.
But the gift that I most cherished was the tidal wave of love that I received from all who remembered and celebrated my birthday, with or without being physically with me. Because every single person who reached out to me touched my heart with theirs. Through their words, their thoughts and gestures, they let me know that I mean something to them.
How absolutely, wonderfully humbling that is.
I remember writing about my father many years ago, about how he inspired me because despite being in his 80s then, he lived each day not as though it were his last, but as his first. And now that he is in his 90s, he continues to live this way.
On my last day of being 60, I reflected on how I have lived so far. I remembered those who have come into and have gone from my life; I thought about my mistakes and achievements; the lessons I’ve learnt and those I have yet to master…
And I came to this realisation: I want to live each day as though it were my first AND my last.
For if I consider each day to be my first, there will always be a sense of newness and wonder in all that I encounter. Because each day is a new beginning, every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. In doing this, I will become more appreciative and less world-weary.
And when I think that today could be my last, I will be better at sieving out the unimportant things that serve only to blind or distract me from what truly matters. I will be wiser in my choices and decisions. For when there is no tomorrow, I will focus on loving and giving as much as I can today instead of wasting time whingeing and taking.
Yesterday, after the birthday song had been sung, someone remarked that I was quick to blow out the candle and cut the cake. I didn’t explain that I had no need to spend time making a wish, as I already had one:
May you and I live each day as though it were our first and our last. And may we learn to celebrate life and each other with both love and joy.