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The Birthday Party

Sep 1, 2008
Early in the Spring of 2004, I was invited to a birthday party. I need to point out that this was no ordinary birthday party. You see, this was a celebration of eighty years of the life of a Matriarch, whose children recognized and embraced her significance in the forming of their lives and of their children's lives.

Eleanor is the "Granna" to my dearest friend. But, because of the distance, I had been with her a few times over the course of my friendship with her granddaughter.

Eleanor is, and always has been, a "significant" person in that her presence affects you. Perhaps it is the paradox of her manner, which can be both gentle and strong in the same moment. Or, could it be the way her conversations, often laced with humor, also contain the wisdom of a sage? She has suffered as all of us who live on this earth have suffered, but unlike many of us, she lives and ministers with dignity and genuine affection. All of this being true, from the little I have observed and all I have been told, the paradox is rather the way that she knows her worth, both to herself and to others. Eleanor is the most authentic person I have ever met.

And, so it was on that gorgeous day in San Francisco that a celebration of love was bestowed upon her.

I had not attended with the notion that the experiences of that day would be remembered in a magazine. But, the events, the emotion, the devotion for this woman so touched me that I was compelled to share the occasion with you, for she is a living and vital contradiction to the world's expectations of women, and we all love her for it.

Around 2 0'clock in the afternoon, the families and invited friends began arriving at the home of the eldest son, Jon. Though Eleanor's spirit remains strong, her health is sometimes failing and the decision had been made to celebrate here rather than a hotel. And, as the events of the day unfolded, the backdrop of this beautiful home was ideal for the intimacy that evolved. How wonderful to watch so many generations laughing, singing and reminiscing together as the common thread of their heritage continued to weave them together. Yes, I felt like an outsider in a way, for only those who had shared the common wealth of this uncommon woman, and had had their thoughts and values shaped in so many ways by her, could truly revel in the joy of their shared memories. But, I felt so privileged to just watch the dream happen. No sense of a generation gap here. And, what was most obvious was how they genuinely cherished their Mother.

There were pictures of crayon presented by the little ones to their "Great Granna," and a few precious poems expressing their feelings for her. Then, the older ones joined with them for a chorus of songs that had once been taught by the "Birthday Girl" to her children so long before. Spider songs and lullabies, even an old, forgotten Christmas carol, transported Eleanor back in memory to a time long past, a time when her hair was gold instead of gray, and her greatest joy was running to the source of a child's voice calling "Mommy, watch me!" Tears mingled with laughter as we all were allowed to share in these moments.

So the afternoon passed, each generation taking their turn to remember with songs, poems, endless wishes, and stories told as only families know to do, of the many days that had come before this one. Stories of the one whom they had gathered to celebrate this day, the one who is their source.

But, the best of all was saved for the last. Eleanor's own four children, all now in their sixties, had each written a letter of memories remembered most about their Mother. These letters, each one framed, were passed around the living room for all of us to share and enjoy. I have never read sentiments so beautiful, and I had the overwhelming sensation inside of me that I was reading, watching, and experiencing what the whole world of humankind longs for, all written down inside these beautiful letters.

My expectation was that eldest son, Jon, would present these four poignant letters, each one written in calligraphy and framed in dark mahogany, to Eleanor as a token of their love and also of this stunning day. Instead, each of the four grown children produced from under the dining room table several more copies of their particular letter, framed as the first, and began to give them to each of their children... and to their children.

It was then that I recognized that in these letters, and in this day, and in their lives, the gift to Eleanor from her children was the gift of remembrance.
About the Author
Relationship expert, consultant, and educator, Morgan Delaney, MS, empowers single women with the real secrets about dating and relationships, based on a decade of research in the fields of developmental psychology, brain-based gender differences, and the fascinating mysteries of the male psyche. To learn more about Ms. Delaney's relationship research, and forthcoming books, visit Single Sisterhood .
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