So, I turn 20 today! I’m really not a birthday person, and I honestly squirm at anything big and fanciful, of which birthdays have the potential to be one of. A really small gathering of loved ones is my idea of meaningful. Birthdays are like a temporary spotlight, under which I feel really uncomfortable. A double-edged sword, I guess. It makes the occasion (and person) feel special, and it could also be really pressuring. These have been my experiences, anyway.

To be honest, this birthday was both a joyous one, and a deeply sorrowful one too. I admit that both tears of joy and sadness were spilled in the process of turning 20. Whilst these emotions are still fresh, I thought I would pen down some things I’ve learnt through this weekend:

1. Death is real.

I know, how morbid of a start. This weekend, I received news of the passing of a mutual friend. Knowing that some of my dearest friends are attending the wake and funeral service of someone who means so much to them, and that their lives will henceforth be redefined, has broken my heart and forced me to search for the anchor of which I build my life upon. It has shaken me to the reality of our mortality and challenged me to exercise my empathy, community-spirit and selflessness towards those who are hurting. Knowing that as I scroll through my  birthday wishes, someone else is mourning for the loss of a dear friend has reminded me that every breath is precious, growing old is a privilege, and life is not just about me. This is the second birthday I would have spent remembering the loss of someone’s loved one. It’s really not about the proximity of closeness that you have with the person who has passed, but the verberation it leaves on those you’re close to, and those you love. Their pain becomes your pain.

2. God is good.

And yet in the midst of the bittersweet, God has provided care in the form of loving friends and family. His Church, orchestrated and primed to impart the living truth of His forgiveness has been a sure foundation upon which I stand, even in the jarring face of death and illnesses. If God isn’t real, what else do we have to hang our hats on? Our achievements, abilities and successes cannot count; our selves will be but an empty shell. The comfort of His presence, His promises to restore the world back into perfect order, and the glimpses of restoration (in the form of laughter, joy, celebration and life) is a testament that God has not forsaken us. His forgiveness still stands and His arms still open to receive those who would turn back to Him.

3. Life is meant for the service of others.

Nothing is about us. It can never be. Our meaning is derived from how we live our lives, and the life we leave behind will only matter if we have chosen to make it about those around us. Will we remember those who are hurting, even when we have every reason to celebrate our own lives? Will we see those around us with the perspective of our selfless God, who gave Himself up for us? Will we live life in the service of others? My life is meaningless if all it is concern about is the pursuit of its own desires. And although hurting with others hurts, the alternative is a lonesome, superficial one.

So yes, wow. What a weekend it has been. I’ve been so thankful to be surrounded by people who remind me of my earthly purpose in light of eternity, who make me smile despite my tears, who give me rolls and rolls of tissues and who take the effort to find out about what’s been happening in my life. This is the quintessence of life. I hope to be one of these people, too. To spread the Hope which I carry, and which gets me through anything and everything.

Rest in peace. 

‘… so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.’ 1 Cor 12:25

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