If you know me, you know I have a birthday on February 4th.
Please mark your calendars accordingly.
If you don’t know I have a birthday soon, you don’t know me.
I love birthdays. I absolutely love birthdays.
I love celebrating someone’s life.
And I really love my birthday because I am so happy to still be here.
So I believe in celebrating my birthday as early and as often and for as long as possible.
I let people know it’s my birthday. I let them know in advance. I usually give them at least a month’s notice to remind them, in fact.
My brother and my best friends even may or may not have been known to receive text-messages around this time of year that may or may not read:
***URGENT***~~~3 weeks till my birthday****(Author’s Note: As of this writing, however, it is exactly ONE week and 2 days till my birthday, though, till my Feb. 4th birthday. Did you mark your calendars yet?)
I don’t do that to get presents. (Disclaimer: With the exception maybe of chocolate, flowers and espresso.)
I do that because I want to celebrate being alive another year.
I want my friends and loved ones who have helped me survive to be part of my joyous, heartfelt celebration. If they want to supply me with chocolate, well, that’s a bonus.
I have survived so much in my life. Another birthday brings more reasons to celebrate.
*Reason 1: I have survived another year.
*Reason 2: I am alive.
For that, I am truly grateful.
That’s why I love birthdays.
I know that’s one reason I love cycling so much, too. It’s all about endurance.
I will never understand people who complain about having another birthday or about growing older. Another birthday means you are still alive.
And if you’re growing older, at least you’re still growing.
Are there lots of things I wish I’d done by now? Of course.
Has my life turned out differently than I expected when I was much younger? Very much so, in some ways. In fact, I’m hoping to at least make it to 102 like my great-grandmother GranJoy did so I’ll have enough time.
Yet all I’ve been through ~and survived~ is what has made me who I am today. And as long as I’m still alive, I still have reason to hope and dream and work toward my dreams.
I figure that as long as I have hope, I have reason to believe there is still time to do some of the things I still want to do.
To be honest, the older I grow, the more what matters most to me is having more time to love and to be loved.
Sure, I have new places I’d like to see and new experiences I’d like to try.
But I know now that nothing compares to love. And if I live to be 102 or more, it still will not be nearly enough time to share all the love I wish I could with the people I care most about in this world.
Maybe that’s because the older I grow, I realize that when I was much younger, I had no idea what love really is. I’m learning now about real love and I want more of it in my life. I want more of it in the lives of the people I care about, too.
Here’s why love ~and life~ ~and hope~ matter so much to me.
I am a walking, living, breathing miracle. Proof positive of God’s unconditional love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and grace. I am so grateful to be alive to celebrate another birthday.
I don’t often share all the details simply because I don’t ever want anyone to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for me. My life is my life. It is, as they say, what it is.
I also do not want my life to be defined by tragedy or by my losses. I want my life to be about love and hope and joy. For even though I’ve lost much and survived a lot, I also have known great joy.
Many have asked about what I’ve survived. I share a little of it now (and I hope to share more of it in book form someday…) in the hopes that it may encourage someone that they really can survive anything.
Or maybe it will encourage someone to look at life differently. Or maybe it will simply make someone look at birthdays differently. With even more gratitude for another year.
In my life so far, I have survived, against all odds~~~
~~~*The fatal car crash when I was 5 years old that killed my Mom and my 2-year-old brother. I was injured but lived through it, with some scars you can see and some you can’t.~After that, the mere fact that I survived my childhood is another miracle in itself. Trust me. There were things that happened that no one, especially a child or teenager, should have to endure. I’ll leave it at that for now, except to say that the fact that I emerged alive and still able to believe in hope and love is truly one of the greatest miracles in my life. ~
~~~*A near-fatal car accident on an icy mountain pass in northern Colorado. I was driving a friend’s car to help them move to Idaho. I lived in Colorado. I was used to driving on snow and ice. But I hit an unseen patch of black ice and the car suddenly went out of control, skidded and headed for the cliff with no guardrails. I literally did see my life flash before my eyes. I remember thinking I wasn’t ready to die. Next thing I knew, the car somehow had miraculously spun around and caught the rear end of the vehicle in a large snowdrift. I was shaken ~ but alive ~ again.
~~~*A third near-fatal car accident when we were hit head-on by a drunken driver while a friend was driving us home in a quiet residential neighborhood. We then crashed head-on into a telephone pole, hitting it mainly right in front of me on the front passenger side of the car. My friend and I were hospitalized overnight. While we were in the hospital, another friend met with the insurance agent, who took one look at the mangled car and asked matter-of-factly, “What was the name of the person who died in the passenger seat?” He was completely shocked to learn that I survived. I was, too.
~~~*Being held at gunpoint during an armed robbery. Six and a half years ago on a summer evening, I stopped to get gas and Gatorade on my way home from work. It wasn’t even late. The next thing I knew, two men ran into the store and one of them pointed a loaded gun aimed straight at my head across the counter. I remember thinking that when he pulled the trigger, I would not be going to the hospital. This time, my life didn’t flash before my eyes because there wasn’t time. There was only time for a one-word prayer, repeated over and over in my mind and heart and, as I later found out, I even said it out loud: “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” The two gunmen miraculously fled the store. I could not stop shaking. More shaking and more traumas came later when I had to endure the trial and relive the horror over and over again. It has been a very long recovery from all the trauma but I am determined to not let what happened rob me anymore.
~~~*Losing my much-loved and only sister suddenly, unexpectedly, irretrievably. She left us a little over 17 months ago. I hope I will be able to write more about it someday because she’s one of the sweetest, most caring people I’ve ever known and I am proud I got to be her sister. I should have been a much better sister. I wish with all my heart she had understood how very much I loved her. But for now, all I can say is I will never be the same. I carry her with me in my heart every day. She is the tears I cry at night. She is the reason I am compelled to share hope with others. She was more dear to me than I can ever express. Losing her is the greatest loss of my life. But I made a promise to my dear brother ~the only one I have left now~ that even though I didn’t know how, we would both survive somehow. And we have. And we will. It’s only by God’s grace. For which I am more grateful than anyone will ever know. His love sustains me, even now.
~~~*In between, I have lost all my grandparents, other loved ones and treasured friends whose losses hurt my heart. I have learned the hard way what grief really is, not from some textbook or speaker who knows nothing about it, but from firsthand heartache. That is why I tell others who are grieving not to listen to anyone who tries to tell them how or for how long to grieve. That’s not for anyone else to judge. Loss touches each person differently and each one must find a way back to go on with life. What I know for sure is that if you know someone who is grieving, don’t worry about trying to say something. Hug them and hold them and let them know you love them. Be there for them. Simply be there and love them.
Believe it or not, that’s the short version. There is a lot more. But I hope that helps you understand a little more about where I’m coming from and why I’m so strong in my messages of love and hope and faith.
It’s why I appreciate people who show unconditional love and patience and gentleness and understanding and great kindness more than ever.
One thing I know for sure. I believe with all my heart that one of the main reasons I have survived so much already in my life is so that I can share hope and compassion and love with other people.
I want, more than anything, for my life to be a living testament to the truth that you really can survive anything. God can do the impossible. I can say that because of what He has done in my life, against all odds.
So, now, as another birthday approaches ~ have I mentioned I’m having another birthday on Feb. 4th by the way??? ~ I have so much reason to celebrate.
For me, every birthday is cause for great joy. Absolute excitement. Extravagant joy.
I still have so much to do in my life. I know that more than ever now.
And more than ever, I know I’m being given another chance to learn more about real love. My heart feels giddy with excitement and anticipation at the very thought.
I don’t know what lies ahead for me. But I’m still believing more dreams are going to come true. I believe it with all my heart. My hopeful heart.
Every breath really is a second chance. If you let it be. My life is proof of that.
So, please join the celebration. You’re all invited. Feb. 4th. All around the world. Give thanks for life and hope and love!!!
And if you feel the need to bring chocolate or send flowers or buy me a doubleshot espresso, well, who am I to deny you that chance? I prefer dark chocolate, by the way, with almonds whenever possible and a little cream and sugar in my coffee. *smile*
~~~For my birthday this year, here is my greatest wish~~~Please let the people you care about know how much you love them, as often as possible. Seize every opportunity to show love and to receive love. Hold onto hope, no matter what. You can survive anything. Believe you’re worth the chance to have as much love as possible in your life. You are incredibly valuable and loved with the most amazing love I know. So enjoy this amazing life you’ve been given.~~~Luv, J.