This November, I will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of my birth.  Some of my friends report that they found their 40th to be a troubling time; it caused them to meditate rather too much upon their own mortality.  Others found 50 to be more disturbing than 40, while a few have declared that 30 was their worst birthday (so far!). 

Some folks find birthdays ending with ‘5’ to be more problematic than those ending with ‘0’.  Some aren’t troubled by specific numerals, but find it difficult to live beyond the age at which a parent died.

I appreciate that such birthdays (and other life events) offer me the opportunity to contemplate my mortality.  This may at first seem a little odd, but I find a lot of value in reflecting on the fact that I will someday die.  It gives me a chance to think about the things I do to make meaning out of that fact.

Some folks answer their mortality with a bid for immortality:  through art, through architecture, through their children, etc.  Some feel prompted to use the short time we have in service to others—although each wave is transient, the overall tide of humanity will continue to flow, long after we’re gone.  And some people want simply to enjoy every fleeting moment of each limited lifetime, honoring the gift of life by savoring it in the fullest way possible.

I do a little of each of those things.  I suspect that most of us do.  Of course, there are also days when I don’t celebrate or reflect on my mortality, but rather I wail or rage against it.  I like to think those are also appropriate human responses.  They, too, are indications of life’s value.

May our birthdays—and every other day—be meaningful.

–by Rev. Chip Roush, in the “Pioneer” of the UU Society of Geneva, in the November, 2003 edition.

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  • Mike Argyle

    As you well know, I’m one of those that turned 50 recently. It caused an interesting review of days gone by – of memories both sweet and sour. I’m thankful for all the lessons and joys provided to me, and the spirits and souls that have been a part of my journey. Knowing I can “get thru” the most difficult of times, and knowing there are people that care and will help, makes the uphill portion of that journey that much easier.

    I feel fortunate to have a birthday so close to those who have impacted my life so greatly. Happy Birthday Aimee, Chip and Becky!

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