Religion Magazine

On Birthdays and Aunts and Life

By Marilyngardner5 @marilyngard

August is a big birthday month for us. Each date that we celebrate is set apart on the calendar and in the heart.

Last Thursday, August 9, our youngest turned 18- legal in the eyes of the law.

Nostalgia moves in like thick fog as I think about that day 18 years ago, an August day in Cairo, Egypt when I went into labor 2 weeks early. I gave birth five hours later to my youngest and my tallest. His older sister, on hearing it was a boy said: “oh dawn it — I wanted a sistuh! Now he’ll have a boy face”.

And he did, and he does. In the past year he has gone from boy to man physically and spiritually and it is a common sight to see him on the couch reading Kierkegaard’s A Sickness Unto Death or other literature that feeds his mind and moves his soul.

Just one day later my middle child, Micah, turned 25. He is married and lives in California with a lovely wife and a dog named Wilbur (who we affectionately term our “grand puppy”). He is thriving in the film industry in Hollywood, seeking to live a life of integrity in a cut throat industry and we are proud.

And this past weekend saw us at a family gathering to celebrate my Aunt Ruth. Aunt Ruth turned 90 years old this past April, and though belated, it was a perfect occasion to bring extended family together to celebrate a remarkable woman. Indeed, a remarkable family. We came to Rochester, New York from as far as Oregon and as close as Rochester. We came with a lot of life behind us: births, weddings, and deaths. My cousin Barbara, beloved by all who knew her, died just days before the gathering.

I wrote these words to my Aunt Ruth this past April, and I share them with you today:

Aunt Ruth

I am rarely out of words – but today, thinking of you and your birthday, I struggle to find the words to express my delight at having you in my life.

You are my dad’s last living sister and ever since I can remember you have been a part of my life. I remember your hospitality when we would come back to the United States and visit your family, always in great big Victorian houses with bay windows. While they must have been drafty in the winter, they were magical to this niece – missionary kid growing up in Pakistan.

You have always had a brilliant, inquiring mind that took in all around you, but it is coupled with a generosity and love for people. Those two don’t always go together but in you they met a brilliant match.

You raised smart, talented children and had to face the backwards and broken world we live in when you buried your beloved Kristine far too early.

You are one of my favorite feminists - smart, loving, fun, inquiring, and not giving in to the world’s warped definition of what it means to be a woman.

And today I celebrate your 90th birthday far from you – with great expectation of an in person celebration later on this year.

I love you Aunt Ruth – God surely looks in favor on you as you walk day by day in His Grace.


As families grow and spread their roots, it becomes more and more difficult to bring people together, to feel a part of each other’s lives and share the brilliant joy and the sometimes indescribable pain that makes up life.

Today as I reflect on family I realize how important it is to express love, to come together when possible, to support each other when life gets stormy and forgive each other when the inevitable conflicts of personalities and opinions start to choke out compassion and love.

But there’s more. For coming together is a chance to relay family history and stories, to look at generations past and remember that God is faithful. My cousin Bruce opened my Aunt’s celebration with words from Psalm 78 and though I’ve heard this Psalm before, the words felt fresh and strong, filled with promise:

I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. (verses 2b-5)

So we came together to celebrate an Aunt, and Life, and God’s faithfulness to generations. To celebrate with sacred and silly and definitely with cake.

On Birthdays and Aunts and Life
On Birthdays and Aunts and Life
On Birthdays and Aunts and Life
On Birthdays and Aunts and Life
On Birthdays and Aunts and Life

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