Milestones hold meaning in every culture around the world. From the Jewish Bar and Bat Mitzvah to Rumspringa to the Sweet 16 birthday, these rites of passage help us to mark our lives. Ceremonies and celebrations solidify our important transitions, and sear them into our memories.
With the pandemic now entering its third year, it often seems like one day blends into the next. So many important milestone occasions have been canceled, rescheduled, or altered so that they bear little resemblance to the original. While we grieve deeply for the most tragic outcomes of COVID such as death and unequal access to care, we also mourn loss of important rituals.
One of the most difficult parts of the pandemic has been the inability to attend the funerals. I lost three family members in 2020 and went to all of their funerals on Zoom. I still feel the emptiness from the lack of closure.
Last Friday I celebrated a milestone birthday. That evening I was supposed to play a show with my band, The Spirit of Rush. I am triple vaccinated and planned to isolate at home for ten days after the show to prevent any spread. At the last minute, however, one of my bandmates came down with COVID (he is already mostly recovered, thankfully!) and our show was postponed.
My birthday suddenly looked very different than I had planned. I didn’t get to hug my friends. I worried about my loved ones. There was no party or balloons or singing the happy birthday song. I was sad and disappointed for all of the milestones lost in the pandemic.
My husband said, “Let’s go somewhere!” That had never even occurred to me. I had been dreaming of a 50th birthday party for years and I couldn’t see past that. He took me to one of my favorite beaches in Florida and we had a glorious time walking along the silvery seas.
While my big day looked different, I chose to accept my sadness and then adapt. I decided to see the day as a time of reflection, a time to take stock of my life, my accomplishments, my difficulties, and my dreams.
Milestones still matter. In fact, they matter more than ever.
So what will you celebrate? Mourn? Reflect on? If you can’t mark a milestone the way you planned, how will you shift?
Milestones still matter. In spite of the circumstances, I am grateful for another year of life and for the chance to inspire others. In fact, that will be the greatest gift of all.