Grief, Gratitude and the Gift of Turning 50

April 17, 2019

I got robbed on my fortieth birthday. While all my friends were having fun celebrating the start of their own “Lordy, Lordy, look who’s forty” decade, I was tucked away in my own private pity party, fuming over the fact that my life totally sucked. What the hell is there to celebrate, Dad just died. Mom is sick. It’s supposed to the best time of my life, and this is what I got. My birthdays will never be the same. Thanks a lot, God.

All I wanted for my birthday was a fast forward button to press—or, more accurately, to smack, Family Feud-style—all in hopes of  bypassing the darkest days of my forties. I’m sure God got a chuckle out of my request, knowing that His birthday present would far surpass any handy dandy gadget I could conjure up.

The gift I reluctantly accepted from God was the ability to learn for myself to trust in both Him and my grief journey, as well as to embrace the healing process of time. After enduring all that grief, I didn’t think I had it in me to accept my new norm….let alone find any joy in the process.

Two weeks ago (a full decade after the fact), I was finally able to realize the positive impact of my once unwanted fortieth birthday gift. Surrounded by 85 of my closest family members and friends—along with Fiesta-themed decor, yummy enchiladas, a gorgeous three-tier birthday cake, live music and no shortage of adult beverages—I celebrated my fiftieth birthday. I even did one of those outrageous adult smash cake photo shoots.

If someone had told me ten years ago that I’d one day feel like celebrating again, especially at that capacity, I would’ve thought they were nutso. How could someone who has been robbed like I was ever feel joy again? But there I was, standing in the middle of the party room, all dolled up in my favorite sparkly black dress as I held a microphone and thanked my guests and my God for helping me get to this point in my life.

Looking out into the crowd, attempting to keep my makeup intact, I was inspired to honor my beloved parents by sharing a special memory. It’s one that sparked a new outlook for me as I turned a half century old. https://youtu.be/5BG2M3Jx33k

I specifically remember my parents in their fifties, hearing my dad dramatically whimper every time he got off the couch: “Oh, my back. I’m getting old.” Or watching my mom grimace at the mirror while she colored her grey hair and slathered Oil of Olay over her aging face. Whenever new aches and pains would show up, she’d say, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.”

But when my mom turned sixty, something shifted. She gracefully ditched the complaining and doom-and-gloom comments with: “Hey, I get to be sixty. I’m healthy. I get to walk, and I still get do things I want to do. This is great: another year. I’m so grateful.”

It was then I made a promise to myself: when I turned fifty, I would adopt my mom’s profound gratitude mindset. Little did I realize that not only would my promise carry me through the woes of aging, but it would also become a way to honor her. So here goes:

I get to be fifty. I get to love, I get to pray. I get to hug. I get to walk and talk, I get to laugh and cry. I get to eat and drink. I get to work and exercise. I get to blog and write a book. I get to dance and celebrate. AND I get to share hope.

For those of you who are grieving on your birthday, desperately wondering if you will ever have it in you to celebrate again, may this blog serve as a reminder of the power behind God’s birthday gift to you, whether you’re ready for it or not.  And may it give you hope that one day, you will get to celebrate again—I promise.

 


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