Mozart’s Requiem, Birthday and Memorial

“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?

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

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

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!

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Birthday, Death, Memorial, Music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Mozart’s Requiem, Birthday and Memorial

  1. ShimonZ says:

    Best wishes for a very happy birthday, regardless of the circumstances around you. I am sure it is a pleasure for you, and those who know you, to celebrate the day you came into this world.

    • rachel bar says:

      Thank you Shimon for your wishes. During our cousin’s memorial she produced a birthday cake and a card for me. I could not believe that in the midst of her mourning she had the presence of mind to remember it.

  2. Maurice Labi says:

    Go figure, it was just this week that I “forced” my twin daughters to watch the movie “Amadeus,” one of my all-time favorites. At first they didn’t know what to make of the music, the period, but by the end of the film they were consumed by Salieri and his evil mind, taken by the sounds, the over-the-top spectacles on stage. They could hardly get off the sofa at the end, thinking how life and death are so intertwined. Happy Birthday

    • rachel bar says:

      Thanks Maurice.
      Amadeus is a tough one for me. After watching that movie I came home and I got the dreaded phone call telling me that my father died. Again, life and death, pleasure and pain. Dash from pnina.

  3. Barbara Cooper says:

    How wonderful that you see the good in all of your experiences and find the lessons in them as well. And Happy Birthday! May it be the start of a momentous year for you!
    Lots of love,

  4. godschool says:

    Happy birthday, Rachel. I love this post – it’s always fascinating to trace the routes people travel to learn wisdom in their lives. I think too many of us in the west think we are ‘in charge’ when we aren’t, and it can take a tragedy, a death, or an illness to remind us that we can’t do a thing about it. We (I mean many Christians) have a phrase we probably over-use, but it’s always a good reminder: let go, and let God.

    • rachel bar says:

      I know the phrase very well, as it’s being used often by people who join AA or NA etc. I hear it often from my clients. It’s a beautiful phrase even for someone like me. I agree with you about our delusions of “being in charge”. I wish it would not take a tragedy to teach us our lessons.

  5. mim collins says:

    Really nicely put together…the evolution of your thinking and its results are a wonderful birthday gift to yourself…Have a lovely birthday….mim

  6. Stephen Plotkin says:

    Rachel, your posts are always insightful and enjoying- thank you.

  7. Amy says:

    I can just hear you saying, “Shit!” ;D I relate to your difficulty letting go of expectations. They are pesky, little buggers! I’m happy you got to see Baby Jade on your birthday too! That’s an interesting trio of life themes: a new life, continuing life and the end of a life. The cycle of life indeed. I hope your cousin is holding up OK. I can only imagine how sad and difficult it must be for her to lose her husband unexpectedly… especially after being so sick herself a year ago.

    • rachel bar says:

      Thanks Amy. As usual, a thoughtful comment and a caring one. I like your description of the “pesky little buggers”. It kind of a give a different image to expectations…

  8. Martha Carr says:

    So sweet! Loved it. You obviously made lemonade! Let them eat cake!

  9. Have a great birthday – we are four days apart.

  10. Martha says:

    Someone told me the best things in life are not “things.” Seems like you agree with that!

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