“How do you feel about going to a memorial on your birthday?” asked my husband, some weeks ago.
I don’t know about you, but usually there’s some fuss about me on my birthday… Flowers, phone-calls, a family brunch or dinner, and the like. So, after even more than a few birthdays, I still look forward to some sort of celebration, even though I have to admit I’ve no use for gifts.
But this year, the memorial for our cousin’s deceased husband is on my birthday. We live far away, so this would take most of the day.
Dear reader, do you want to go to a memorial on your birthday?
Well, in my continuous quest for reevaluation I’ve decided the memorial is exactly what I needed to do – first, to be supportive of our lovely cousin; and also to honor the cycle of life.
After all, the day I was born was just a regular day. The world didn’t stand still. People were born and people died. The sun was shining in one place and it was cloudy in another. So I’ve decided that going to the memorial was the perfect way to honor that cycle of life.
Notwithstanding my effort to contemplate the nature of the universe, my husband felt badly about not celebrating it on the real day, so he made reservations at a nice restaurant for birthday eve, followed by a concert at the Alex Theater in Glendale.
Last night was a bit unusual because I usually know what the LA Chamber Orchestra was to perform, but not this time. I knew from the tickets it would be Mozart, which felt serendipitous, because he was born on my birthday – I just didn’t bother to look at the program ahead of time.
“Shit”, I said to my husband, as we walked to the concert hall. Mozart’s Requiem, the marquis announced in bold letters.
“This is supposed to be the celebration for my birthday … And now it’ll be celebrated by Mozart’s Requiem … on my birthday … a theme of death?!?”
Truth be told, I’d never heard the piece in its entirety, but I suddenly felt this theme of death accompanying my birthday to be a very powerful symbol – and that there would be a lesson there.
Happily, the concert was transporting and beautiful and I could have sat there for hours listening to the beautiful music.
Mozart’s Requiem was composed honoring a dead woman; Mozart really needed money at that time and he died while composing it. I don’t know how many of you know it but, Mozart never finished the Requiem! (It was completed by his assistant, I think.)
The Requiem had to be finished not because of Mozart’s brilliance but because his grieving wife needed money. This juxtaposition of basic survival needs and heavenly creativity is the message.
So in the midst of thinking of Mozart and his uncompleted requiem; our cousin who herself was at death’s door a year ago – the same cousin who now is the one sitting in a memorial today to honor her husband’s memory … and a concert that began as a disappointment but ended up being sublime … I realized that it’s all about letting go.
Letting go of expectations is so profoundly difficult for me.
Birth and death are intermingled: One is born and another dies. My granddaughter was born not according to plan just a short time ago, and our cousin’s husband was not supposed to die. Some expectations will be unmet because life occurs with little regard for the fact that we want to be the maestro who conducts the orchestra.
So the gift of my birthday is the theme of interconnectedness. We are all alike, even when we forget that we will die and raise a toast to ourselves on our birthday – we are yet mere creatures in this enigmatic universe; or, if you like – this divine comedy.
And even though I will drive to a memorial in a couple of hours to be there for our cousin – I will stop to see my family and my new grand-daughter whose major accomplishments are eating, sleeping and smiling. You see, this is all that one needs to do when life begins. And it’s enough.
My husband just told me that my coffee is ready, and you know what they say:
Wake up and smell the coffee!