What does a birthday celebration look like in the shadow of COVID-19?

There is no grand gathering; only people of the same household are permitted to gather physically in the same place at the same time. There are no presents to unwrap; stores have been closed for weeks and even if they were open, no one is shopping except for essential groceries. Meals out are not really a possibility; restaurants are closed.

We have only seen our daughters at a distance for three weeks; we have not touched our grand-daughters for twenty-four days. So, this birthday probably looks like a quiet walk, a physically-distanced gathering with family, dinner together, and a virtual meeting with fellow spiritual pilgrims in the evening.

The space required by COVID restrictions provide an opportunity to examine why we do many of the things we do. So, what about birthdays? What are birthdays for?

Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the arrival in this world of someone we know and care for.

Today’s non-celebration birthday is for my wife Heather.

This day nearly seven decades ago, a tiny new life appeared in the world. Who could have imagined what Alice Heather would become? Who could have seen on 6 April 1954 that from this one tiny being born far away in Philadelphia would eventually emerge two luminous young women and four magnificent granddaughters? Who would have thought that Alice Heather might have turn into the thoughtful, courageous, strong woman we celebrate today? Who could have predicted the amount of beauty and life that would eventually emanate from this one little person?

Like the rest of the world at this time, we are navigating circumstances that have shaken the whole human community in a way that nothing has in our lifetime. We are facing unprecedented uncertainty. We are having to deal with a world that is being profoundly and irrevocably changed by forces over which no one has any control. There is deep anxiety and fear in many people as worries about health, safety and economic survival grow every day. In almost every part of the world the number of dead from COVID continues to rise. Businesses have closed, schools are shut, unemployment is sky-rocketing.

And yet, in spite of the dark clouds surrounding this day, there is so much to celebrate, so much for which to be thankful.

I am blessed to walk through these confusing times with a woman who has met all the struggles we have ever confronted and allowed them to become the instruments by which she has grown in wisdom, depth and strength. She has taken everything life has thrown at her and allowed it to be the means of refining her inner being and transforming her into the strong, deeply compassionate and wise person she was created to be.

So, I am sorry my love, today there may not be much of a party to celebrate your arrival in this world. There will be no balloons, no elaborate carefully chosen gifts to unwrap, although maybe a slice of cake can be arranged. But there is profound and deep gratitude for the gift that you are, for the beauty of life you bring into this world and for the blessing of your presence in our lives. That after all really is what birthdays are all about.

God bless you Heather on your COVID birthday.