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On Monday 23 November my youngest granddaughter turned four. On the Sunday prior to her birthday, her parents organised a small party with her daycare friends followed by a relaxed gathering of close family. The weather cleared and it was so nice to bask in the sun and be with all my children and five of my six grandchildren – as well as my elderly parents and my sister and her husband, and my niece and her family. However, for me these occasions are haunted by the question that now overshadows all family celebrations. Will I be at the next birthday or is this the last one?

On Saturday 5 December my youngest son turns 22 and another family gathering is planned at the lovely rural home in Ngaruawahia of my second son. We are all looking forward to it. While I am determined to be there when my son turns 23, I am very aware that I am revelling in each birthday, treating it as if it will the last birthday of the person that I will be there for. It is such a bitter sweet feeling.