Cake by Maria Wakefield, Photography by Julia Montgomery
My reflection on the occasion of my 60th Birthday Celebration held on Sunday 15 December in the presence of family and Friends at Little Bay, NSW, Australia.
On my sixth birthday I was given “Now We Are Six” by A A Milne. If I remember correctly, it was Christina, my older sister, who gave it to me. I am grateful that Christina and Terry travelled up form Melbourne to celebrate with us. The final and title poem in the book, I loved, learnt by heart and still remember it some 54 years later. Some of you may also remember it:
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now
for ever and ever.
For some reason this poem came to mind as I was reflecting on turning 6 again, or rather 6 decades old. And I began to wonder what it was offering me.
Firstly, I think it is deep gratefulness for the 6 decades of life, each of which prepared me for the next.
Secondly, gratitude for those who gave me life- my parents Grace and Toni both of whom were with us when we gathered to celebrated 5 decades but remain very much a part of who I am today.
Thirdly, the gift of people in my life, those present and those absent. My family of origin, the Karbowiak clan, my extended family that has grown over the years. The family that came into being following my marriage to John 37 years ago and the birth and growth of our three children, Julia, Maria and Michael. And now their families James, Tilly and Sticky on the way, Tim and Clark. This family provides on-going lessons of love. The gift of friends and their of encouragement and acceptance. Colleagues who enable my competence to flourish. Spiritual advisors who nourish my soul. Faith companions who enkindle hope. Students who have been my best teachers. Fringe dwellers who tend my own edges. All have been and continue to be gift.
Fourthly, today is an opportunity for all of us to honour the abundance of life and the abundance in life. Be that the resilience of the refugees who have come to this land, some of who have prepared the food this day, the creativity of cake bakers like Maria or the those who are bring life to birth so obvious in Julia at the moment. Despite the raging bushfire, the drought, the inability of our politicians and political systems to lead audaciously, we need to honour the abundance of life, and shun a mentality of scarcity.
Fifthly, it is necessary to celebrate. Amid the ups and downs of life, the regrets and the triumphs, the fears and the hopes, celebration invites us into the present moment. As Michael Leunig says “Love is born, with a dark and troubled face, when hope is dead and in the most unlikely place Love is born; Love is always born. This present moment is gift of love being born again. Let’s celebrate this.
And yet after 6 decades of life, it was with some trepidation that I approached today, not because I was turning 60, that happened on Thursday and Thursday was just the day after Wednesday which the day after Tuesday. My life just continues to unfold, my being continues to evolve one day at a time. However, it was approaching today, this day of celebration, that has been the challenge. And that is not because I am averse to celebration, rather I am uncomfortable with being the focus of attention. I am probably not alone in questioning from time to time if I am worth celebrating. But young Christopher Robin, aged six, knew the excitement of celebrating oneself. I recently came across the words of Henri Nouwen, who says “We should never forget our birthdays or the birthdays of those who are close to us. They remind us that what is important, is not what we do or accomplish, not what we have or who we know, but that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life.” (end quote) One could say that celebration is a form of prayer. Meister Eckhart says If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that will be enough. So, to each and everyone one of you, I thank you for the gift you are in my life and I thank God for the gift of life. I have been invited to lay aside my fear and trepidation and allow love to be born again in this present moment. I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate and to celebrate with each of you who is here today. Thank you.