Celebrate 88

“This is such a great idea,” any number of people said the other day when we hosted a birthday party for my father at the Otesaga.

Not to be morbid, but the idea came from receiving lines at funerals. When my oldest brother died four years ago, I stood in a funeral receiving line for the first time. It felt like everyone had a story to tell about Stewart. I wished he could have heard them. He would have felt so loved.

When my mother died, the same thing happened. Person after person held my hand and told me a story about my mother and how much she meant to them. It gave me comfort to hear, but I wished my mother could have heard the stories too.

When Mr. Hanson, my 7th grade math teacher, died, his funeral was packed. The receiving line stretched out the door of the Vet’s Club and down the street. I wished I could have grasped his hand one last time, looked him in the face, and told him how much I appreciated him.

That’s why I started thinking about a party for my father.

I bounced the idea off my siblings. Before long, I was on the phone with the Otesaga. It had to be a strange call for their event planner.

Me: I’d like to have a birthday party for my father.

Planner: How many people do you expect?

Me: I have no idea.

Planner: I really need a number.

Me: I have no idea.

She worked with me.

I am so thankful for Brooke. She listened and guided and suggested.

For instance, she suggested that we use several adjoining rooms so it never felt crowded. She suggested we set up one room with comfortable seating, so my father could sit on a couch instead of a dining chair. She and her staff put out the decorations we had brought — books and photographs. She was wonderful.

The real quandary was how to get the word out. Friends of Bassett helped SO much. They blasted the invitation to retired physicians, current physicians, administration, and I forget who else. The local churches also helped to spread the word. As I ran into people at the grocery store or the gym or the post office, I invited them. It’s hard to corral a lifetime of people.

Among the first to arrive were two nurses from Dermatology, his last hold-out in his long and varied medical practice. He was delighted when he saw them.

Dermatology represents

From the home health aide who takes care of him,

Doreen and family

To a former CEO of the hospital,

Dr. and Mrs. Streck

To one of his secretaries,


To a little leaguer he had coached,
To family,

Family

More family,

His sister surprised him

And a slew of friends and colleagues, his life was well-represented.

The next day, as he started working his way through all the cards, he asked, “How did all those people know it was my birthday?”

I just smiled.

 

Empire Swimming (and Easter)

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Empire Swimming at LaGuardia

E is for Empire Swimming and Easter.

As a swim coach, I thought it funny that I ended up on my first flight to Laity Lodge with a swim team. I didn’t mind.  Swimmers are some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Especially when I get to overhear conversations like this —

Swimmer A: This is my first time flying. I hope I get a window seat.

Swimmer B:  You know you can’t open the window, right?

I laughed, wondering if Swimmer A thought he could open the window and stick his hand out to zoom through the oncoming air.

When the plane took off, I thought of him again, especially when I got that giddy feeling that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time as the wheels leave the ground.

Flying is such a miracle.

Over a hundred people crammed into a metal tube, with their suitcases and laptops and books — but somehow that heavy thing climbs into the sky.

I really do grin like a 10-year-old and get the watery eyes of a senior citizen at the moment of transformation from earthbound to air-born.

It happened to me again yesterday.  Not the flying part, but the laughing/crying part.

Easter Sunday is, in my opinion, the most important Christian holiday. The crux of our faith lies in the truth that Jesus bore the penalty for our sins on the cross and then conquered death in His resurrection.

Churches around the world have traditions associated with Easter.  Over the years we’ve attended churches with sunrise services, cardboard testimonies, hymn sings, dramas, and traditional liturgies. Each new way of celebrating offers a fresh look at an old but oh-so-beautiful story.

The church we currently attend closes with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and a joyful procession of the children.

Curmudgeonly me, I said to Bud yesterday morning before church, “I’m ready to move on to something besides caterpillars and butterflies.”

I’ll blame it on the persistent headache I’ve had for the past week, but, more likely, I’m just a grump.

Caterpillar down the center aisle

Caterpillar down the center aisle

When the procession started, though, and the caterpillar came waddling up the center aisle, I felt that wheels-leaving-the-runway giddiness.

And when the children threw off the caterpillar shroud to reveal the butterflies, I confess, my eyes got a little watery.

As the procession continued with waving flags and ever larger butterflies, I was thankful for the joy that filled our sanctuary.

Because, if there was one thing I needed to be reminded of yesterday, it was joy.

Confetti-filled, silly-stringed, laugh-out-loud joy.

The kind where it doesn’t matter whether or not the window opens, because you can still feel the wheels leave the tarmac, and know that it’s a miracle, and that you’re being carried somewhere beyond, somewhere amazing.

Easter is that kind of amazing, pressed down, shaken over, overflowing.

The biggest miracle of them all.

For me.