Today is my Dad’s birthday.
All week long I have been feeling this vague confusion over what we do with the birthday of a loved one we have lost. If he was here our priority would be to be with him, at some point. To give him gifts he can use, enjoy, experience. To take the opportunity to write in a card how much he is valued and appreciated and how we wish him real joy in life.
At the heart of it a birthday celebrates that person and I have concluded it does not need to depend upon their presence, though it will of course, painfully, be different.
Today we are acknowledging this day gone by, the 15th of August 1960. A day in history. A date that will never leave us, though he has. A date that will keep its place in time gone by and also in time to come. Significant to us and to many others too.
It is a date that marks independence for Congo from France (his actual birth date), independence for India from the UK (13 years prior) and most interestingly (to me!), on my Dad’s 5th birthday the Beatles held a concert in Shea Stadium that has since been seen as the beginning of ‘stadium rock’.
On the 15th of August 1960, David John Cottrell came into the world and began a life that would span 54.5 years. A life that would impact the world, my world.
Today I think of the family I have because of him, the places I have been because of him, the lessons I have learned because of him, the laughter lines I have because of him, the values I hold because of him, the fact that I will always laugh when someone breaks wind because of him, how I look, walk, talk (and write!) is all traced back to him.
But not just me and my world. Many others who were close, but also, the people from long ago who I bump into and they tell me – such a great leader, such a great youth worker, he encouraged me in this, paid for this, supported my family through this. People have jobs because of him, young people live in safety because of him, young people without hope have their last shot at education because of him, other organisations that want to help have valuable support because of him, young women in Sierra Leone, Africa have skills and support because of him.
There is much to celebrate, more than written here, and with many tears and many smiles we will celebrate today. Everyone should be celebrated on their birthday, even if they can’t share in the celebrations. Ask me about my Dad, I love to speak about him.
And so…. COME ON YOU IRONS!!!!!!