Published in the Rains County Leader on October 17, 2017:
Celebrating Life, the title of this article, is an accurate description of how I spent this past weekend. In a period of forty-eight hours, I attended a gender reveal, a tenth birthday party, a wedding shower, and a memorial service. Each celebration was very different, but each one marked the importance of an event that most of us experience during our time on this earth.
The gender reveal was my first. I’ve seen pictures of them on Facebook had never attended one until Saturday. When I had my son, the gender reveal came in the delivery room when the doctor declared, “It’s a boy!” Medical advances have allowed earlier announcements, and the process has evolved.
This recent reveal was done at a family fish fry. During lunch, young cousins of some designation made the rounds, taking an opinion poll of the gender of the cousin-in-utero and applying Team Pink or Team Blue stickers as appropriate. I was on Team Pink, and David was on Team Blue in the gender reveal game, but in the game of life, we’re both on Team Brendle!
When most of the fish was gone and the plates were empty, the reveal was interrupted briefly for birthday cupcakes in honor of the tenth birthday of my 1st cousin twice removed (my 1st cousin’s granddaughter). We sang happy birthday, cheered when the candles were blown out, and chose from one of three flavors of cupcakes before turning our attention back to the expectant mother and father. By the way, she is my first cousin once removed. (If you’re confused, check out a Facebook group called Multicultural Genealogy.)
When the big moment came, Team Blue faced off against Team Pink with the parents-to-be between us. The father was the only one who knew the gender, and he had armed both teams with cans of Silly String of a color known only to him. On the count of three, we sprayed blue stringy webs all over the couple and their little boy while a drone camera recorded the celebration from twenty feet in the air. Yes, it was a bit more elaborate than the delivery announcements of old.
Aside from a birth or a birthday, another life event worth celebrating is the formation of a new family through marriage. This process involves a number of celebrations including one or more showers. On Sunday afternoon, I attended one in the Fellowship Hall at our church which had been transformed with flowers, tulle, cake, punch, and a table full of cards and gifts. I haven’t done much research on the subject, but my guess is that the modern shower began many years ago with a Quaker tradition called a pounding. Friends and family would hold a party and gave the newlyweds gifts that would normally be sold by the pound – flour, sugar, butter, and so forth. Regardless of the origin, it has become another excuse to celebrate life with food, gifts, hugs, and laughter.
The last event in life is the moment when we step out of this earthly existence and into the next. While we are no longer able to join in, those we leave behind usually mark the occasion with a funeral or a memorial service. Whether it is a celebration or a more somber affair depends a lot on how we lived life and viewed death.
The memorial service I attended on Friday was a celebration of a man who loved life but who had his share of heartache and who struggled with depression. Toward the end of his life, though, he made the courageous decision to step outside of his comfort zone, and he came back to church and began coming to the Senior Center. In the last year or so of his life, he found joy in new friends, a new understanding of what it means to have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus, and a new purpose in volunteering to work in the children’s ministry at church. There were tears at his service because we will miss him, but there was joy and celebration because he finished well.
There are many other occasions in daily life that are cause for celebration. In fact, David has a favorite saying that speaks to this: “Every day’s a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.” If we can live and believe that, perhaps we’ll have more occasions to celebrate.
A cheerful heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15