It was my mom’s 62nd birthday a couple of days back.
I called her to wish her.
She picked up the phone and said Thanks!…but then, just a moment later, followed it up with “What’s there to celebrate?”
This is not the first time I had heard someone say this. I have retorted similarly in the past myself. I was almost in tears when I turned 30.
For the first time in my life though, I had more to offer than an awkward nod of agreement.
With 40 peeping around the corner, and grey hair peppering my crown with much less discretion, I maybe even had an answer to her question.
It went something like this.
When we are young, birthday celebration are all about commemorating the day we were born.
As we get older, arriving on the planet seems a day long lost in history. Birthdays soon become markers of aging.
The body gets weaker every year, and the mind does not relish the prospect of weakening bones and lost energy. It’s easy to feel that celebrations are out of order.
But this comes from ignoring the purpose of our life.
And the way I see it, the purpose of life is to grow.
Think about it. In this life full of impermanence, have you in true terms gained anything besides growth? Anything else that you gained through the good times and the bad times alike? Anything else that you once gained, always stayed with you, while everything else – success, fame, money, love – came and went?
Isn’t growth then the only meaning of life?
Seen in this context, how bad does the sixtieth birthday sound? How bad is it to celebrate 60 years of growth? How bad is it to celebrate a lifetime of being polished by life’s many forces?
Every year on this treadmill called earth, our eyes may lose a bit of their glint, but our soul shines brighter – gaining perspective and getting rid of its karmic dross.
The day we came on earth isn’t important – the journey we have covered is.
And that, mom, is certainly worth celebrating.