I will turn 51 this month and instead of looking toward a festive celebration with my family, I’m planning a memorial service for my father.
2021 has been the worst year for me that I can remember in a long time and I want it to end. The Covid19 pandemic upended all our lives for nearly two years, then my dog died, and then my father passed away unexpectedly.
Last year we couldn’t get together for New Year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my 50th birthday. We all were isolating and being extra careful not to catch Covid. That all changed when my elderly parents and aunt caught it.
They all collapsed in their home within days of each other and were rushed to the hospital.
I remember trying to run the numbers in my head and asking what was the probability that each one survives? What is the probability that all three survive?
All three of them are in the high-risk category for death and have underlying health conditions. I couldn’t sleep for days, lying in bed wondering when I’d receive a call from the hospital that one of them passed away.
Luckily they beat the odds, all three of them came out completely trashed and destroyed but they were alive.
Then the long-term Covid complications came. My mother started losing more weight. Today she looks like a bag of bones covered with skin. My aunt started losing her hair to the point that she was bald.
My father? He got the worst of it.
My father was not a healthy individual. He drank, smoked, and ate too much. He was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes in his late 40’s and ignored it. Coming from a family where we have heart issues, his diabetes affected his heart until he had a heart attack a few days before my wedding.
I remember dancing with my partner and seeing my mother and father dancing and me remarking that my father looked like a ghost. He had no color on his face. The next day he was admitted to the hospital.
My father cheated death so many times and for that I’m grateful. We had more time with him. We had more time to listen to his jokes, hear him sing, and spend time with him at family gatherings.
Our last family gathering was Christmas 2019.
My father never missed a Chinese New Year celebration, he never missed a family function, he always called his grandchildren on their birthdays, and he always called his family.
My father tried hard to live with a “family first” attitude, even though his bouts with alcoholism when I was a child made me resent him then.
My father had his problems, he was a simple and yet complex man in many regards, but he was still my dad.
The Covid19 pandemic ripped so many families apart, canceled so many celebrations, and killed so many people. My heart goes out to you if you’ve lost a loved one and I offer you my condolences.
Last year at this time my partner was reaching out to my friends and family to get them to video record a 50th birthday greeting. I found my father’s isolated video clip wishing me a happy birthday.
This year he won’t wish me a happy birthday. He will never do so ever again.
Every year around my birthday month I start withdrawing a bit. I spend time in quiet reflection and I count my blessings. I have a wonderful career, a wonderful and loving partner, awesome kids, a wonderful family, and many friends. I’m the luckiest man alive.
Every year when my partner asks me what I want for my birthday I always reply the same, a nice dinner with my family. In pre-Covid years we’d go out to a nice restaurant and invite my mother, father, aunt, and sister to come along. I never want gifts but I get a few small things despite my protestations.
What I wanted was time with them. Time with my loved ones because the day will come when time on this mortal plane will run out for them.
And it did for my father. Way too soon.
So I think about things in November and look forward to the holiday gatherings. I look forward to writing our holiday newsletter with my partner. We pull photos together and print a card. We decorate, play music, and invite our family over.
Only this year there will be an empty place at the table.
So I spend November looking outward. I look outward toward you and gladly will share my love with you. When I say, “I love you all,” I mean it. I see the looming end of the year and look toward a new year, one with no mistakes and no heartbreak. One where my cup will runneth over in love and laughter.
That is my wish, a cup we can all raise in a toast to one another where it runs over with love. It spills over the brim and runs down our arms.
My birthday wish for you is to find your loved ones and hold them tight. Adjust your schedules, make time for them. Meet up with old friends. Write a card to an old colleague.
My wish for you is to live your life with love, passion, and desire. My wish for you is to spend time with the people that bring you joy, the ones that sustain you, and the ones that help you grow.
Just give your love, give it all away. Throw it out to the universe and the love you receive back is the love that is saved.
That is the best present ever.