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On This Birthday, What Ultimately Mattered

It was text messages, phone calls, emails, and voicemails. Happy birthday, happy b-day, earthday, and HBD. It was Kenny, Kenneth, KD, Nupe, and Phi. It was be blessed, enjoy, you’re graced, and wishing you an amazing year. From daughters and siblings, my love and relatives, fraternity brothers, friends — some old and some new.  

  

June-23-2014-Images
June 23rd; another year completed and another year begun. Birthday 2014 was one of my most eventful and uneventful. “What are you going to do today?“, asked my daughter Lauren. Daughter Kennedy asked the same gasping at the thought of me being in my mid-50s! From daughter Kristen, “You have to do something special for yourself.” But to each, the same reply, “I don’t know.
 
No party was planned. At one point I considered treating myself to dinner and a movie. However, as evening slipped into night, it became clear that I really felt prompted to go out, I would have been out already. 
 
This birthday was, by many people’s standards, uneventful, if not boring. However, the quiet time presented an opportunity to just reflect on a year filled with both joys and sorrows. 
 
Many were embodied in the well wishes from individuals who since my birthday 2013 had welcomed new additions to the family while others had lost loved one. Walked the isle of marriage and walked out of a courtroom officially divorced. Some who expressed well wishes overcame serious illnesses and injuries. While others were finding out that an illness was attacking their body. In the numbers who shared a thought on this day, were the promoted and newly retired, business owners facing uncertainties, and dedicated workers being downsized. I had conversed, laughed with, encouraged and joined in prayer over the past 12 months. And on this day, their thoughts of me gave me an opportunity to think about them.
 
Candidly, the span between the prior birthday this one has seen a number of quiet moments and quiet tears. Last year, the conversations with my mother were more fluid. And while Alzheimer’s Disease was afflicting her body, we found times to take walks, even as she courageously moved with the aid of a walker. One year later, she is no longer mobile. Speech is reduced to involuntary sounds. And a diminished diet struggles to consume half of a pureed meal. And most of her days are spent in the darkness of eyes that rarely open. Watching someone slipping away and feeling completely helpless to turn back the illness, plants a sense of sorrow in one’s most hidden places.
 
And it was a year that someone so dear to me learned of illnesses. After a conversation that exhibited such courage, a voice asked and kept asking, “Would this be the last time this person I love so much would call to wish me happy birthday?

I could not avoid the anniversary of June 26th. One year since cousin Chris Burroughs became the latest murder in the family. Those words of assurance by the coroner as we looked down on his lifeless body, “We’ll get him.” And my response, “No, you won’t.” Dexter Burroughs’ murderer is still out-on-the-street. No reason to think Chris’ would be found. The screams are still vivid when I picked up the phone and cousin Denise was there, “He’s gone Kenny.” Having just returned to Cincinnati, I was unaware that Chris had just been shot. And I could only scream. June 23rd and June 26th are now inseparable. Very difficult to mark my birthday without marking Chris’ death.
 
And indeed, it was not a birthday of cake and ice cream, cheeses and wine. But one of deep sadness that invaded my spirit like an unwelcomed guest throughout the day.
 
And yet, even with the challenges, there is a level of joy that comes only by knowing Jesus Christ is still on the throne. Even in the understandable despair that comes with life’s difficulties, the Lord was so faithful to place before me so many blessings that the year has witnessed.  
 
My oldest daughter, Kristen, taking faith steps that demonstrated a level of maturity in God many times that of Christians twice her years. In a matter of weeks, Kristen took her graduate school entrance test. Applied and was accepted to prestigious Vanderbilt University. Left her employment in Cincinnati and relocated to Nashville, without knowing how it would all come together. And within days, the Lord blessed her with a position, and not just any position, but one directly related to her field of study. And her early performance has been excellent. And Lauren. To see the young lady who cried over reading problems in her early grade school years. Who entered a reading program and was diligent during evenings, weekends, and summers. To now complete her undergraduate studies at 20 years old, with honors, and a year early. To be accepted by Marymount University in Arlington, VA where she will pursue her graduate degree in Forensics Psychology. And to have young Kennedy, born at 29 weeks and cared for in an incubator. Now completing another year of school, only knowing straight A’s.
 
It is a year, where Karla has experienced blessings, in her personal and professional life. These occurring even as our bonds deepen. Sister Maxine is exhaling and enjoying life. And company started by brother Shawn and his partners have secured their first contract with NASA.
 
And the year saw my former wife, who lost her parents and a man she loved, find her smile again. She is happy. And despite what became of our marriage, she gave me children. And I rejoice that Lynette is finding the healing in God’s wings.
 
The year has strengthened relationships. And brought peace where discord once attempted to rule.
 
As such, in all these things the tears of concerns are transformed into the tears of thanksgiving.
 
This day was uneventful in many respects. No pomp and circumstance. No grand celebration. But on this birthday, the Lord used quiet time to remind me that we are to number our days on the earth. Consider them. Allow even the day that marks our coming into the world to give us reason to pause. Reflect on the precious, fragile nature of this thing we call “life”.
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”40%”]“…today is the only day of our lives”[/pullquote]
 
On this day, brother Darryl said to me, “This is the first day of our lives.” Indeed, these are words of optimism and hope. And yet, on this birthday 2014, I come to another, even more profound reality. Namely, today is the only day of our lives. No power can return us to the past. And no power promises us tomorrow. In this, we have an opportunity to find wisdom.
 
June 23rd was not a day of champagne or any of those things. But it was spent doing what was even more memorable. Numbering my days. That is, thinking about the brevity of life. And not in a morbid sense, but in a way that confronted the things of God and eternity. And such as it is with each of us. Irrespective of our race, gender, geography, educational backgrounds, and vocation, we share the commonality of having one day out of the year that marks our birth. Wherever that day lands on the calendar, we can use it for more enduring pursuits, beyond the celebration. We can use our birthday as a reminder that the grave will soon be our resting place. That the night is coming when no man can work. A reality that compels us to work while it is yet day. Seek after that which pleases God, which is the principle thing. And in doing so, set our hearts to wisdom.
 
 
This is dedicated to so many who, through their kind expressions, enabled me to number the days of my life. And thereby, move along my journey in the pursuit of wisdom. Thank you.  I pray this resonates during your birthday as well.
 
 
[notice] I’m working towards closing down my Facebook personal page in order to better serve this blog and another community initiative that will be announced in July 2014. God has burdened me with some work that will require considerable focus. I do enjoy the relationships and pray that you take a step to continue our communications even while changes are taking place. To do so, please LIKE kennethdprice.com on Facebook.[/notice]
 
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