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On 30 September 2010 I attended a morning tea to celebrate the 100th birthday of my partner’s aunt Mavis Rogers nee Eldridge. The preceding few days were spent visiting and catching up with various cousins he hadn’t seen in over 4o years and yet they could all remember the last time they had seen each other. There was lots of discussion on what had occurred in everyone’s lives since then.
At the morning tea it was really good to see all the generations present – Mavis’s three children, some of her grandchildren and even quite a few great grandchildren. Her only surviving sister Joyce and her family were also present. Not everyone could attend and there were lots of apologies and fond remembrances sent. Congratulatory messages from various politicians, the Lord Mayor, the Prime Minister, the Governor General and the Queen were all read out as well.
Perhaps most moving was when Mavis’s daughter read out an account of her mother’s life through childhood, marriage, her long widowhood and finally her life in a nursing home. Throughout it Mavis was constantly moved or surprised and I don’t think there were too many dry eyes in the room by the end of the account. After being presented with 100 roses, Mavis cut her birthday cake and made her birthday wishes. Everyone took photos and also some video footage which we will now all share with family members.
After the formalities were finished, I looked at the display of family photos and the various albums the family had put together about Mavis’s life and the album collated for her 90th birthday, ten years earlier. In them I found a few photos and newspaper cuttings of her sister Elma, my partner’s mother so I promptly took digital photos and asked for copies to be made as well.
Seeing Elma in the photos made me realise just how alike the sisters were, so I went up to Mavis and told her how much she reminded me of Elma who had died in 2002. She was so pleased to hear that and to know that part of Elma’s family had been able to attend the morning tea.
Afterwards I reflected on how good it was to see so many family members together and enjoying each others company. All too often the only time a family gathers is to attend the funeral of a loved one. Perhaps it is time that we all give thought to celebrating our families and loved ones while they are still alive to be part of the fun. Perhaps it’s not a case of just another birthday, let’s make all birthdays significant family occasions before it is too late!