A few weeks ago, one of the residents where I work celebrated her 100th birthday. Knowing that this milestone was approaching, I phoned her and asked if I could put together a celebration for her. "Why not!" she exclaimed. Why not indeed!
Ours is a small senior community filled with independent folks ages 55 and older. Several of our current residents have lived here since the apartments opened in 1991. Dorothy is one of them. She lives in the same 2nd floor apartment that she originally saw twenty-three years ago. Hers is one of the best apartments on property with a glorious view of Douglas fir trees and other evergreens. It feels as if you are somewhere tucked back on a mountain side, rather than in the heart of a bustling city.
The property features more than two bedroom, two bath apartments. We provide activities of all sorts. Everything from Bingo, to knitting clubs, watercolor paint classes as well as potlucks and monthly birthday celebrations. Dorothy's birthday, I assured her, would be an event to remember.
I contacted our local paper, advised them of this remarkable occasion and asked if they would be interested in attending the party. Imagine my surprise when I was told that turning 100 years old is NOT remarkable or out of the ordinary...unless, of course, that person has lived an extraordinary life.
What does an extraordinary life mean? Is it somehow more special, more important, than say, my life? Could my life be considered extraordinary when compared to that of another? How and why do we as mere humans decide who has lived an extraordinary life?
Lady Margaret Thatcher
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Are these individuals somehow more extraordinary? Or are they merely famous for what they accomplished and if so, does this make the rest of us rather ordinary?
I'm sorry, but I cannot agree with that statement or thought. I refuse to believe that because I did not invent something or write something or was in the right place at the right time, that I am somehow less significant than another human. I do not believe any of us are.
I bristle at the thought that Dorothy is somehow less interesting than, say, Anne Boleyn. Life is interesting! The living, the breathing. Is it possible that those tiny instances in our lives that make us deliciously happy or despondently sad are extraordinary?
Shouldn't they be?
Think of your greatest moment...the one that leaps to mind and causes you to flush with pride or joy or love or excitement. What is it about that moment that outshines all the other events of your life.
For me, there are so many extraordinary moments. My marriage, the birth of my children, the adoption of two of my children, my work being published, running my first mile at age 40, caring for an elderly relative, teaching my children to read, baking the perfect Banana Whipped Cream cake year after year for my Beloved's birthday. So many! So many great accomplishments and I haven't even touched on my redemption and salvation by an extraordinary God!
Life is extraordinary. Each breath, each blink, each moment.
Dorothy turned 100 years old on January 17th. She never married. Instead, she worked for her father, a physician until he retired. Dorothy taught herself to drive and is still driving to this day (although, some of us wonder at the wisdom of this). She has visited every National Park in this country at least twice. Dorothy has hiked trails few of us will ever see. She's read classics and romance novels and murder mysteries by the score. She is greatly loved by numerous nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors.
Dorothy has lived and is living, an extraordinary life.
I asked her, what is the secret of life?
"Just be happy. Be happy with your spot in life."
As for Dorothy and her party, it was a smashing success. Friends and strangers gathered to honor a lady whose life we deemed extraordinary. For indeed, it is.