My mom celebrated her 80th birthday last week.
For the years leading up to her 80th, she repeatedly reminded us, “I don’t want a party when I’m 80! I especially don’t want to get all dolled up and sit in a special chair at the church so that people can come and make a fuss over me. And, don’t buy me a corsage because I won’t wear it!”
No party. No special chair. No corsage. No church.
Then, she attended some of the birthday parties for her “club ladies” who also turned 80 this year.
(Her club ladies are some of her high school friends who formed a club after graduation and have been getting together twice a month ever since.)
She had so much fun at their parties that she began to reconsider.
“Who would want to come though?” She asked. “It’s a little embarrassing to have a party for yourself, isn’t it? What if I invite people and they think, ‘why did she invite me to her party and why would I want to go?'”
After a little convincing, she agreed to let us plan and host a party.
Her guest list was so long we had to violate her rule about not having it at the church.
We held to the rules of no corsage, no special chair, and no dolling up in our Sunday best.
As I watched her mingle, visit and connect with friends and family, I thought about how much I want to be like her — poised, healthy, vibrant, resilient, strong, loved, and with too many friends to count.
She had a unique, personal and special connection with every person in the room. Her friendships are not just superficial associations. She cares about people and connects with them on a personal, meaningful level.
In addition to her rules about no corsages, special chairs, and dolling up, she’s developed other rules that guide her life.
We decided to capture some of them and created a list of her “11 Rules for Living.”
1. Always go to bed with a clean house, and never leave dirty dishes in the sink.
2. Take a walk every day.
3. Do as I say, not as I do!
4. Always speak the truth, always
5. Deal with problems when the first come up or they’ll just get bigger.
6. Read. Read.Read. Then, read some more.
7. Somebody might get away with hurting you once, but don’t give them the chance to hurt you twice.
8. Pray always and turn your problems over to the Lord. You can’t get through them alone.
9. Be a good friend, and you’ll have good friends. Be a loyal, fun, caring, positive, listening kind of friend.
10. Laugh often and freely. Enjoy life and have fun, and remember a milk shake is a perfectly fine dinner.
11. Be yourself. Don’t waste your time worrying about what other people think.
This is only a partial list and there will likely be more blogs on what I’ve learned from her, but this is pretty representative of her rules for living.
The best gift of all on her birthday was the discovery of a film from 1954 that she never even knew existed — a film my cousin discovered and shared of my mom with my dad on the night of their engagement.
It showed an exuberant, emotional and overwhelmed young man slipping a ring on a smitten, lovestruck young woman.
What a gift to see my parents as a young couple in love, looking forward to a life with such happiness and promise.
We decided Dad couldn’t miss the party. So, he showed up in the best way possible.
What an honor it is to be her daughter and to be a witness to her amazing and inspiring life.
And how lucky am I to have a mother who is my best friend, greatest example, and loudest cheerleader?
Happy 80th birthday, Mom.
I love you.