What if you knew that the birthday you were celebrating would be your last one? I ponder this question being just a couple of weeks away from what friends are calling “a big one.” Yes, I will confess that the mighty 4-0 is waiting in the wings. I have had a few different reactions to this monumental birthday. One being that I just want to run and hide, but I think that has more to do with the winter we had on the east coast this year. And the other being that my inner rebel wants to scream, “Frak it, I am going to be 40 so I might as well own it.”
With my Battlestar Galactica potty mouth in fine form, I have decided to approach the impending 4-0 by asking myself what if…
What if I knew that it might be my last birthday here on this earth? How would I want to spend it? The answer to that question could get very glamorous if I let it. A beach some place south is the first to come to mind. That is my winter brain responding again of course. If my finances were unlimited I would seriously consider it. But that is not my reality. The real answer to this question, the one that really counts is I would want to spend it with as many friends and family as I possibly could. Just like my dad did when he knew for certain that it was indeed his last birthday.
Dad’s Last Birthday (April 2011)
Dear Dr Dyer,
What do you get someone for their last birthday? My dad will be turning 63 soon and I want to make it special. He cannot eat real food these days without it sending him into an oblivion of pain. Hearing him try and use the washroom is like nothing I have ever experienced before. His suffering cannot be descibed by my words alone. So getting him a cake that he will enjoy is out of the question. Or is it?
Verse 2 of the Lao-tzu talked about “Living the Paradoxical Unity” as you so elequently put it. This verse really hit on something for me and helped me figure out what needed to be done for my dad’s last birthday with his family.
“The perfection of the Tao is allowing apparent duelity while seeing the unity that is reality. Life and death are the same. Virtue and sin are judgements, needing both to identify the other. These are the paradoxes of a unified life; this is living with the eternal Tao.”
While only concentrating on the fact that this is my father’s last birthday, I am forgetting that he is still living. I am forgetting that I still have this moment in front of me. A moment where I can embrace life just as I must embrace his inevitable death. Not all of us get to know when our last birthday will be. Most of us focus on being in that moment when it happens. That is what I need to do now as well. It’s my dad’s birthday, yes I know he is suffering but I also know that there are three little boys who cannot wait for poppy’s birthday. Celebrating a special occassion comes so very naturally for a child. They, “like the daffodil that does not judge the daisy, will just be.”
It will be through my father’s grandchildren that he will have the most perfect of birthdays because they will live that moment for him, with much joy in their hearts. A cake will be made for them to present, as he watches the pleasure that it will bring to them as they eat a piece for poppy. Gifts will be given, wrapped by their tiny hands. In turn, these tiny hands will also help in the unwrapping no doubt. Through these birthday rituals, memories will be made and then lost. The paradox of life will continue bringing with it the knowledge that love is the only gift really worth living for. My father will have plenty of that when his birthday arrives and it will remain long after he is gone.
Thank you for being my guide through the beautiful language of the Tao.
“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” Lao-Tzu