Wednesday of last week, February 1st, was my birthday.
I was overwhelmed with the number of good wishes that have been sent to me, both mailed and electronic. I’m thrilled that many people would take the trouble to send cards! People from past lives (including from my increasingly distant high school days!), current friends and colleagues, and some I know by name only, via social media (though so far, no friends visiting from my future – cue the Twilight Zone theme…!) Anyway, it is humbling and gratifying, and I thank you all so much.
A few days ago my dear wife Cecilia asked me if there was anything I’d like for my birthday besides what was on my list (the secret’s out – I make lists – and this one was, I admit, pretty mundane stuff). Her question made me think (as her questions and comments almost always do!) a bit more seriously about it, for at least a minute or two. I guess she caught me in a reflective mood – so I replied something like this:
“Sometimes I ask for specific birthday gifts, but this year I don’t feel a need to. I feel grateful to be alive, to have a family which includes a wonderful wife, and a wonderful daughter, stepchildren and dog, a roof over our heads, food, employment, great friends, etc. – at a time when many people don’t have these.”
On my actual birthday last week I was substitute teaching (elementary school), supervising after-school Homework Help with some kids in the library. Several had an extra-credit assignment to name the Presidents on Mount Rushmore. Most of the papers I saw guessed Washington and Lincoln correctly, but for the other two they really ran the gamut; the kid I was helping had Obama and Kennedy! I explained to him who the other two presidents were (Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt), and that when they carved it Obama and probably his parents weren’t born yet, and JFK would have been a young man. I guess this prompted him to suddenly ask, “Hey, Mr. Urwin – how old are YOU??” I said (in a very friendly way) that this didn’t really matter, and he said, “Aha! You’re 29, huh??” I smiled, winked, nodded knowingly – and said nothing further!
If you want to know my age, just check the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982, Hymn 679, S-169, or the composer index. One of my choir singers says as long as there’s only one date next to my name in the book, that’s a good thing for me!
On a more pensive note, one of my birthday cards had this quotation from Marcus Aurelius (Roman and Stoic philosopher; 121-180):
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
One could do a lot worse than adopt this quote for one’s birthday – or one’s life. Thanks so very much for all the birthday greetings and wishes! I am truly blessed and fortunate.