Celebrating Posthumous Birthdays

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  If he were still alive, he would have turned 83 today.  But alas, he died 9 years ago. The picture you see here is of him blowing out the candles on his 74th birthday cake.  We didn’t know at the time that it would be his last birthday that we would be celebrating together, which makes this photo one of the most special that I have of him.

Sure, I would have loved to have seen my father achieve the milestone of 80 years, continue on into his 90’s, and maybe even more.  He would be turning 100 on March 22, 2032…but I know that he never will, and I’ve accepted that. I don’t necessarily like it, but that’s just how it is.

Which is why it drives me nuts when I see the media touting someone’s 100th birthday, only to find out they’ve been dead and buried for years. Case in point: on March 5th of this year, Google put up a tribute graphic on their homepage to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles, on the occasion of his 105th birthday.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who loves instant ramen more than I do, so I’m totally on board with celebrating Mr. Ando and his brilliance. But the simple, undeniable truth is, he died 8 years ago, at the ripe old age of 96.

So why are we celebrating his birthday as if he’s still accruing them?

Don’t get me wrong–I believe that a person’s birthday, whether living or dead, is absolutely a cause for celebration.  Too often, we focus on the day a person died, when that was actually just one day over the span of their entire lifetime.  It makes so much more sense to celebrate the day they were brought into the world, marking the exact moment when they began interacting with others and making their mark in this lifetime, for however much time they were given.

But this nonsense of counting the years after the person has passed on–that needs to stop. What could possibly be gained by memorializing the things that a person never had the chance to experience? It is a waste of time and energy to commemorate what a person “would have been.”

Today, I celebrate my father for everything that he was: a loving, kind, generous, brilliant, talented, funny, wonderful man.  And though I can’t help wishing that he were still here to blow out his candles, I’m truly grateful to have had him in my life for as long as I did.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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