This is one of my favorite posts, probably because I had fun writing it. There’s no serious medical information in it, but I hope you will find inspiration to stop and think about the “reason for the season”.
Don’t we celebrate more special events and holidays the last six weeks of the year than the rest of the year combined? It feels that way to me. We have these three major holidays-
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day
Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve have become mini holidays too.
And when Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on the weekend, Friday or Monday will be a holiday for many people.
First we had Black Friday. Then they added Cyber Monday. Now we also have Giving Tuesday, which I think is the only one that really counts.
Some people observe the special celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
In the United States, we observe December 7 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the day in 1941 the United States entered World War II. That event changed our country forever, and created my generation, the post-war Baby Boomers.
On December 17 , 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their famous flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, ushering in the age of air travel, another historical turning point.
The shortest day of the year occurs on December 21, the winter solstice and first day of winter in the northern hemisphere.
And there are other special holidays and events observed too.
Besides holidays, other matters demand our time and attention during this season also.
College students face the end of a semester by studying for finals and finishing term papers and projects.
Renewal notices for subscriptions, licenses, and memberships show up in our mailboxes or inboxes.
Charities offer us one final opportunity to make tax-deductible donations.
Patients call their doctor’s, dentist’s or optometrist’s office for that last chance to use medical insurance before the new (and probably higher) deductible kicks in or use medical spending accounts.
And in the middle of all this, I celebrate my birthday.
Having a birthday close to Christmas makes both occasions rather messy for you and your family. As my friend ,whose birthday is on New Year’s Day, wrote, “You feel like you get cheated on your Christmas/birthday gifts.” But there are perks.
Your neighbors remind you your birthday is coming by hanging lights on their houses and turning them on every evening. (My husband claims that’s not the real reason. He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus either.)
You can go to a holiday party and pretend it’s for you.
You can listen to Christmas music on your birthday without seeming weird.
Your husband may hire a limousine to drive you around town looking at holiday lights displays. (No joke.)
Thank goodness, so far, no one else in my immediate family has chosen to be born or married this month. (Although I was delighted to learn recently that two distant cousins also have December birthdays.)
But the best part of any birthday, no matter when you observe it, is reflecting on your life, both the successes and failures, the joys and sorrows, and remembering and reflecting on the people and events that brought you to where you are now.
Birth and death comprise this journey we call Life. Long ago I recognized that we physicians do not ultimately “save lives” or “prevent death”, but we can sometimes impact the time and circumstances.
A Bible book, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 addresses the extremes of life in this passage which is often read at funerals or memorials-
For everything there is a season, and a time for
every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
This year I have celebrated with friends who welcomed new babies into their families. I watched a friend face a disabling illness and death with the same faith, courage, enthusiasm, dignity and humor that he had lived life. I have mourned with his family and others who have lost loved ones this year.
Some people dread birthdays, but I believe they are a blessing; I am grateful for another year of life and hope to use whatever time I have left productively. I agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes
“To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.”
Buzz Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 astronauts and second human to step on the moon’s surface , trekked to the South Pole-at 86 years old.
A woman celebrating her 103rd birthday made the news. As always, she spent the day at a senior citizen center- as a volunteer!
In January, our country observes the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I doubt my birthday will ever be named a holiday, but I hope something I do in life will leave this world a little better.
A birthday creates a new beginning and so does a new year. Perhaps we can all use the New Year’s Day holiday to remember, reflect, renew and recharge our hearts and minds for another season of life.