Celebrating my birthday with friends in 1974
Which brings us to birthdays. I live for my birthday, and for my friends' birthdays should they choose to share them with me. Birthdays bring parties and good food, maybe a present or two wrapped in glittery paper. I love birthday cards that express affection or humor. I learned early that the best birthday cards contains cash and a press-out paperdoll and are signed in familiar shaky cursive, "Love, Grandpa."
This year things were a little different. This was the year I attended a funeral on my birthday. I lost a friend on my birthday rather than gathering friends around me.
Usually I enjoy funerals in the same way I enjoy birthday parties. Just as with birthday parties, funerals are a celebration of a person, of their life, of who they were.
When a young person dies it isn't always easy to celebrate. We grievers are left feeling the loss not only of our loved one but of their potential and everything they would have experienced had they lived a week, a month, a year, a decade, a century longer. Reeling in pain we plead with God, fate, or the stars, "Give me just one more moment, let me look at her beautiful face just one more time." If we are lucky our begging is heard and those we lost appear to us in dreams.
My friend Cutrina lived a life that overflowed with faith and joy. She was electric. At her funeral I listened as others spoke about Cutrina's deep faith. She was the kind of woman who ran to the front of the church when a favorite song was sung. I heard about Cutrina's kindness and generosity like when she gave a bus pass to a stranger who later became her friend. We all knew Cutrina for her over-the-top celebration of life. She could kick above her head and do the splits without so much as a pre-dance stretch. Her smarts and hard work helped to conceive of and create the Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference. We'll remember her for all of these things as well as her outlandish hairstyles and crazy designs polished on 1-inch fingernails.
Yes, Cutrina died young. Yet she lived past her potential. She crammed a heck of a lot into 41 years. I thank her for this gift received loud and clear on my birthday: Cutrina reminded me to live BIG every single day. Live loud. Sing loud. Find gratitude. Talk a lot. Make friends. Make some more friends. Be kind and generous. Work hard. Kick high. Wear sassy hair and paint your nails. When it is your time to go, be sure and leave your loved ones with plenty to smile about when they remember you. And never miss an opportunity to celebrate your birthday.