A very different birthday

I have a big birthday coming up. As someone who makes skincare for a living I would like to think some might find this hard to believe, but with three young children I am under no illusions. I had wanted a party – sausage rolls, twiglets and a huge amount of mandatory dancing; in a former life I was a salsa dance teacher and, more than anything, I have missed dancing during these last months.

Obviously I’m not getting my wish and, I’m ashamed to admit, I had a few days of, ‘the poor me’s’. However I heard my lovely mother-in-law’s voice - from Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland - in my head saying, ‘catch yourself on’ or worse, ‘give my head peace’, and so I did. I went to the Co-op, bought some sausage rolls and twiglets, put some music on in the kitchen, and shook, if not danced, myself out of it. As a family we have had disruptions but these pale in comparison to what some people are having to endure.

One of my biggest sadnesses this year was the death of my grandfather and of course we couldn’t have a funeral for him. However, from this sorrow there came light. On the day of his burial, the residents of the village decided to line the lane from his house all the way to the church so that his coffin was accompanied to his final resting place. It was quite an overwhelming moment for our family and I was awed by what a community can do when they pull together.

Our village gave my grandfather a beautiful send off and showed us how loved he was. The simple act of standing outside their doors as a group made such a difference as we also saw on a nationwide basis with our ‘clap for carers.’ 

People are meant to be together, we are stronger, happier and more hopeful this way, and constant solitude can only lead to unhappiness. This pandemic has forced so many into loneliness, made all the more difficult this time round as the nights draw in. The events this year are a reminder to me that even a small gesture of kindness towards a stranger or a neighbour can mean such a lot to the receiver. 

So I’m not getting my 21st birthday party this year, but I will be surrounded by my family and that really is a very precious gift in itself. We have all lost something or someone, some obviously much more than others, and will collectively mourn for the 2020 that might have been. But in one way or another, what we are enduring has brought us together, often in unexpected and beautiful ways, and the thought of that makes me smile.