Maybe we didn’t sing the birthday song with quite as much enthusiasm as we had on other occasions, but we did sing it. Because by golly, it doesn't matter how you feel. It doesn’t matter if your work is hard or your relationship is suffering, or your kid is terrible, or if you have a migraine; in my family, we are going to sing the song.
There will be cake and a candle and the song. And not just the normal birthday song. This is a special, cajun, toe-tapping version that requires clapping and some charismatic emphasis as you spell it out H A P - P Y B- IRTHDAY. It took real effort to sing the song that day.
We sat in the living room where, for decades, we opened gifts with Granny and Papaw. Matt was sitting in Papaw’s place, and I thought how odd he looked sitting next to the fireplace where Papaw should be - close to the fire so he could stoke it and worry it to death.
My mother was now one of the older women in the room with greasy, loud boys leaning on her and playing at her feet. She looked much too young to be the grandmother.
The vaulted ceilings and wood floors multiplied our incessant talking, laughing and teasing and tossed the sound across the room. There were presents, of course. And, the song. The song that I didn't feel like singing, but I did. I was having a bad day but I knew I had to sing the song.
And in that moment looking at my boys sing the silly song, along with the adults who had taught them the silly song, I thought about heaven. We were just practicing. This was just another dress rehearsal. We were practicing the wrong song, but then again we haven’t heard the music of heaven.
We were practicing being together and eating good food and singing and loving. And the lasagna was made with zucchini because we were trying to be healthy and the chocolate cake ended up falling apart, but we had food because we were celebrating.
And we loved each other even though the kids were too loud and we didn't always agree. And we were reliving decades of singing and celebrating another year of life together, in my grandparents house where we now lived. They were gone now, but we were still singing. We were practicing for the real thing and the practicing was an important part of making it here on earth.
And my bad day felt less bad. One day there would be 10,000 years since we last stood there with the falling apart chocolate cake singing the silly song, missing the ones who had already left and we would be singing a new song and we would be together. More importantly, we would be with the One our hearts long for.
We keep practicing, because in the practicing there is an ache and longing that gets comforted. It never really goes away. It won’t go away. Because when we celebrate here its only a taste of the celebration that will never end.
Maybe it’s an overly analytical way to view birthday parties, but on my worst day I’m thankful for the hints of glory. The light that pierces through the clouds. The moments that remind me this isn't all there is.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Ginger Williams is the managing editor of the Jackson Business Journal. She has pursued a career in journalism, marketing and sales, after several years as a homeschool mom. Ginger attended Boyce College where she received her bachelor of arts in biblical studies. She lives in Jackson Tennessee with her husband Matt and sons, Blake and Ethan.