Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Birthday Reflections

I've aged a year in a day.

It's funny when you think about it, how one day can add one year to your age. But don't get the idea that I've spent my birthday crying in my sweet tea, mourning the loss of my youth and taking stock of my regrets. Nope, I'm just happy to be here.

A few days ago I received an email from my high school's alumni director about the passing of a classmate who graduated the year after me. I started to say "a boy who graduated the year after me," because that's how I think of him: indeed, how I think of all of us.

His obituary said only that he had died suddenly. In the past I would have assumed he had been in an accident, since I rarely lost peers to natural causes, but now illness is becoming the primary culprit. Somewhere along the way we all grew older, and although I'll always think of my peers as 30-ish, our bodies say otherwise.

I thought of Mike as I ventured out into the July heat to water my flowers---apparently grown ups have to do chores even on their birthdays---and started to reflect on birthdays past and blessings present.

A party for my sixth birthday--that's me in the middle, chin in hand
The bright sky and oppressive heat reminded me of the birthday parties my best friend Emily and her parents used to throw for me back in elementary school. We July babies can always be assured of scorching temperatures on our birthdays and Aunt Duffie and Uncle Tom---in our family children always addressed close family friends as "Aunt" and "Uncle"---had a pool. Not only that, but Aunt Duffie had a sure-fire recipe for the most delicious homemade ice cream ever.

In the years since I've come across complicated ice cream recipes refined in test kitchens by experienced chefs. But I always go back to the faded recipe card for "Eagle Ice Cream" Aunt Duffie gave me when I married. A single taste takes me back to a sunburned nose and shriveled fingertips and unalloyed happiness.

On my 16th birthday Mr. Pettit gave me a gold watch. We had been dating for a couple of months and it wasn't real gold; that was a bit out of his budget at the time, to say the least. Today the watch rests comfortably in its case in my dresser drawer. It doesn't work anymore but I keep it because it was my first gift from the man with whom I've spent my entire adult life.

Two days after I turned 29 I gave birth to Younger Son. Mama and Daddy had come to visit so they could help out with Older Son. They suggested that Mr. Pettit and I go out for a birthday dinner date, but I insisted on bringing Older Son along. Maybe I wanted one more outing as the Three Musketeers before we became Four. Of course, once Younger Son was born we couldn't imagine a family circle that didn't include him.

I turned 40 in Bossier City, Louisiana, where Mr. Pettit was going through some training at Barksdale AFB. Our sons and I traveled from Colorado to the Venusian heat of the Ark-La-Tex for a short visit timed to coincide with the birthdays of the July babies.

The night of my birthday I thought of Daddy. He used to refer to me as "The Baby" and once asked if that bothered me. I told him he could call me Baby even when I was 40 years old. That birthday night it struck me that I had turned 40, but Daddy was gone.

Today I got a call from Younger Son's sweet wife. She told me that they had learned that their second child, due in November, is a healthy little boy. Best birthday gift ever, next to the birth of Younger Son.

I had planned to title this column "A Happy Birthday," because I've spent it taking stock of my blessings. But now we're learning of yet another terrorist attack, this time in Nice, France. The video of the emergency vehicles rushing to the scene, police advancing with guns drawn, the bodies in the street: it's all horrific and horribly familiar.

Evil roams the planet, with Death as its wing man. But even as I grieve for the lost and pray for solutions my hope rests in the One who has known me since before I was born: Jesus Christ, my Savior and Friend.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27 (NIV)

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