Today marks 90 years since my mother was born. She didn’t live to see this birthday; she died back at the end of February. But birthdays were important to my mother– hugely important. She never forgot a birthday. Mom was pretty sharp into her later years. She might forget someone’s name–for awhile. She might forget a few details about what happened yesterday or last year, but she didn’t forget to take her medication. She would eventually remember that name she couldn’t come up with earlier in the day. And she had an elaborate system of calendars, date books, and directories to help her remember birthdays.
Mom had a large desk calendar. Each day’s “square” was covered in her handwriting– names, numbers, etc., reminding her of birthdays and anniversaries of her relatives, friends, neighbors, and church family. If she knew your name and birthday, it was on her calendar. If she knew your age, it was on there, as well. If she knew your anniversary, it was there, too. If she knew. your birthday and/or anniversary AND your address, you received a greeting card– and it generally arrived on the exact date! Mom did this for literally hundreds of people each year.
Today hits me hard. Not because Mom made a fuss about her own birthday–even special ones like a 90th. She enjoyed getting a card or gift, or having some cake or ice cream on her birthday, but that’s not what I miss. I miss the absolute joy she had in remembering others, and in being remembered. I can still see the look of childlike glee on her face when she and a friend were both surprised with a birthday party a few years ago. She was delighted for her friend as much as for herself. I can remember her insistence that certain cards be placed in the mailbox on certain days, so that they would not arrive too early or late, but just at the right time for someone’s special day. I remember shopping with her for box after box of greeting cards. Even though she bought “in bulk,” filling a basket or cart with multiple boxes of cards, she was very choosy about them– looking over the designs and the messages inside each box. Often, she had “buyer’s remorse” about a particular box of cards: she wasn’t satisfied with the tone or the greeting. In a box with four different designs, she might send out cards with two of the designs and just leave the others untouched.
Birthdays were important to Mom because individuals were important to her. She wanted every person she knew to feel loved, remembered, and special. Because they ARE! Not just by Mom, but by the God she loved and served.
Mom loved birthdays, including her own. But Mom had another birthday. Mom won’t celebrate another earthly birthday– she won’t get any cards or ice cream today– but she is celebrating her “other” birthday today. She did not knew the exact date, but she was born into eternal life when she accepted Jesus as her savior, and that birthday has no end. It is much more important than her earthly birthday, and fills her (and all who love her) with a greater joy. I can only imagine the gleeful expression on her face at this moment that “was” her birthday, and in every moment since she went “home.” And it’s in large part due to my Mother’s witness and influence that I also have a “second” birthday. I don’t knew its exact date, though I remember it was a beautiful summer day. Later this year, I will celebrate my earthly birthday–and it will be a bit sad without Mom’s card and her smile. But I know that we will someday share much more than a cake with candles, or a greeting card or a wrapped gift.
Mom taught me to appreciate birthdays– and to share the joy of wishing others a “Happy Birthday.” And to anyone celebrating an earthly birthday today, “Happy Birthday!” But I am looking forward to the day that I can share eternity with all those who have a “second birthday” in Christ! I’ll see Mom again, but even that will pale in comparison to experiencing God’s presence and the love He lavishes on His Children!
Just think– God loves you so much that He never forgets your earthly birthday. He not only knows your birthday, He remembers the exact moment of your conception, and every moment since! He knows you and loves you so much that He wants you to have another Birthday into eternal life with Him! And that is better than any earthly birthday card, cake, gift, or party you could ever celebrate! If you have a “second” birthday, even if you don’t know the exact date, I want to wish you a “Happy Birthday” as well– today and every day!