The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party


The Birthday Party

This week I had one of the most moving moments in my professional life.

I work in Geriatric Psychiatry. As part of my job, I facilitate 2 groups on Positive Aging.

Last week, one group began with a patient sharing that it was his son’s birthday that day.

What emerged was that this was his anniversary of becoming a father. A seminal moment in anyone’s life.

So, I decided to do the group on “what do birthdays mean to you?” And on, “how do you celebrate your  birthday now, compared to when you were younger?”


Aging & Birthdays


Then, I added to the mix one of my favorite questions, “how old are you chronologically?” And, “how old do you feel inside?”


What does it mean to be old?

It was a fascinating discussion.

Many of the patients shared that birthdays were not that important to them.

As they are aging, the group members shared that they are challenged by many health conditions.

Consequently, the patients feel more and more that they appreciate the gift of being alive each and every day.

Everyday is special, not just their birthdays.

Many in the group also shared that as children, they did not have a lot of material wealth. So, gifts and parties were not common.

But, one particular patient, Bob, shared that he never had a birthday party. No one in his family ever acknowledged or celebrated his birthday.

Although all the other patients voiced that birthdays were not as important to them as celebrating life — I think the thought that someone NEVER had a birthday party really touched them.

One patient, Henri,  responded to Bob, “we need to celebrate your birthday. Next week, I am going to bring you a cake!”

Henri also asked me to remind him about his commitment when I saw him during the following week.

Although I did remind him, just in case, I brought in cookies, happy birthday napkins, soda and other paper goods to work for the group as a backup.

It turned out to not be necessary.

When I walked into the group room, I saw that everyone in the group had brought in something to celebrate Bob’s birthday!

The group bought a card, 2 gifts, drinks and a birthday cake! They even bought a candle and sang “happy birthday” to him.

Since birthdays are about sharing good wishes, I also asked my patients, “if you could have anything you want, what would you wish for?

Here is a picture of their responses:


If you could have anything you want, what would you wish for?

It gave the patients great pleasure to give and support each other.

Truly, this was a touching and heartwarming moment!

The funny thing was, I told this story to my friend, Adelle, on my way home from work. Adelle then said, “you know, today is my birthday too!” An example of positive aging, Adelle proudly turned 70 on the day of Bob’s birthday party.

And now, today happens to be my birthday as well. I do not publicly admit my age. But, inside, I tell everyone that I am 87.

(I then remind them to tell me “you look great for your age!”)

In the Jewish tradition, a birthday is a propitious day for giving blessings to other people:

May we all be blessed with love, health, material satisfaction, friendship and peace, and many happy birthdays.

Many blessings,


*In order to protect the privacy of my family, friends and patients, please be aware that their names and personal identifiers have been changed.


36 thoughts on “The Birthday Party

  1. What a heart-warming story! As they say, “Shared joy is double the joy.” Happy Birthday to you too! 🙂
    (87, eh? Must be all that healthy food you’re always cooking up that keeps you looking so youthful!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got the idea from my Aunt Chana. She used to tell everyone that she was 85, when really she was 82. This way, everyone would say, “Wow! You look great for your age!” I thought it was funny, and something different than being forever 21. The only thing is, one time a patient said, “you’re 87? You don’t look a day over 55!” (Which is older than I am.) every time I think of that patient, I laugh.🙈🙉🙊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not that much into birthdays for adults either, but I too find it sad that to think about a person who never ever celebrated his birthday… 😦
    What a wonderful touching gift that was for him and I’m sure to all of you.

    Happy birthday to you too, and all the best wishes. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree I was very touched by this true story. The person who had a birthday party for the first time in his life will never forget it and the others went home uplifted because they had participated in his joy

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the tradition of sending a blessing to everyone else on your birthday. I am definitely going to adopt that. My birthday is right around the corner. Now the idea of saying I’m older, I’m not sure I can get my arms around that one. Thanks for taking the time to share this story during this busy week for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s funny to say you are older than your age. The trick is to say you are so much older that people know that you are joking.

      It puts an unexpected twist on ageism –most people are always trying to be younger.

      I like to say, “It is a privilege to grow old” and “be gray with pride!”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t do birthdays but I am glad you were born 😊

    Anytime there’s a coming together to help or uplift one of a group, its a renewer of faith in human nature..

    Human nature has so many hurtful flaws, we sometimes forget our nature’s capacity for compassion and empathy, even our personal own..

    It was a beautiful read Carol 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol, you look really good for your age. What’s your secret? I’m 62 on Wednesday 27th but still feel as though I’m 25, I just wish the old fat guy who looks out of the mirror at me would go away. Love to you now and always and may world peace be just around the next corner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aging is a funny thing. I believe it is about growing up and not just about growing old. My goal is to transcend age. (Although seeking to be timeless and classic probably already dates me!) I do not worry about world peace. I focus on creating peace of mind. I believe that is where true happiness lies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. World peace is the natural progression of order. We each change to become at peace with ourselves, giving up on hatred is the first thing we have to do then we can find peace of mind. Once everyone has peace of mind then no-one will fight their neighbour over the size of their wife’s vegetable garden. No fighting means no war, no war means we have achieved peace for the world! Done, dusted and delivered.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Before I go to bed, I wanted to say that I do not wish that “the old fat guy” would go away. Your body is the vessel that contains your soul. You are the only Dave Barclay that can fulfill your unique mission in the world. The world would not be the same without you, exactly the way you are!💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just would like to lose some weight so I could find it easier to exercise, not that I don’t like me, although most of the time I don’t. I want to exercise more but carrying lots of excess weight means it gets painful to walk more than a mile. I suppose if I can cut down on the unhealthy options then I might lose some weight. Take care and have a good weekend xo

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have some posts on how to make a healthy food plan on my cooking blog. I have a lot of opinions on food and mood. I once had a patient who gave up flour and sugar and he also started to exercise. he became a new person! He even went off medication. (Not that I am against medications. I consider them to be one of the miracles of modern times) healthy diet, exercise, prayer, meditation and focusing on gratitude and the good are keys for me to peace of mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol,
    Mazel tov! I wish you blessings for your birthday and the year ahead. What a lovely story! In my family, we did sing “Happy Birthday,” but for the adults in my Polish family, we sang “Sto lat” which is a traditional song wishing the birthday celebrant that she may live among us for 100 years! Sto lat!

    Liked by 1 person

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