Our Thanksgiving dinner table had an unusual feature this year: an unused place setting with a red plate. On the plate are the words, "You are special today". This is the Welty family birthday plate, and it was out on the table for Thanksgiving because that day would have been Stephanie's fifty-eighth birthday. I also put my favorite picture of Steph on the center of the plate. My daughters wanted to pay tribute to their mom, and I agreed, knowing that it would lead to some tears.
A dear friend of ours sent a birthday card to Stephanie to honor her memory and to remind me that she was aware that the day might be hard for us. It was so sweet, but it led me to wonder about birthdays in heaven. Since time is a human invention, will birthdays really matter in heaven, or will they be celebrated with the hilarity pictured in Dr. Suess' birthday book? I'll find out soon enough.
Since I lost Stephanie, I have been much more cognizant of my own mortality. I ponder my life and longevity. I ponder aging and how I want to face it and how I want to be remembered.
A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I was reading in my devotions the words of an author named Ray Waddle. These words captured well how I want to live my life. He was speaking of how people age with grace and dignity saying: "Life enlarges their spirit, becomes fuel for the remaining journey, seasoned with humor, not bitterness. They age with dignity. Part of their dignity is keeping the inevitable heartbreak framed by larger perspectives and by going deeper into the grief, not denying it." Maybe that's what we did on Thanksgiving day when we set a place for Stephanie and honored her memory on her birthday.
Life can be like baseball. The baseball season lasts for 162 games. It's been said about baseball that each team will win 54 games and lose 54 games. The key is what they do with the other 54 games. As I look at my life I realize that probably two-thirds of it is in the book. Now I have a choice of how I'm going to live the remaining third. The key I think is not to waste the valuable lessons I have learned in life, to still be optimistic, faith filled and hopeful despite the disappointments of life.
Psalm 92:12-15 also speaks to the idea of aging with grace and dignity. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.They will still bear fruit in old age they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
I want to stay fresh and green and still bear fruit in the latter third of my life. I want the last 54 games to be the best 54 games of my life.