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Happy 50th birthday — and sorry for your loss

Karen Amster-Young

I turned 50 this year.

If you were born in 1965, so did you. I wasn’t alone. Champagne bubbles practically emanated from Facebook as countless friends and “friends” celebrated in all kinds of ways.

But, for some, it was also a year of tremendous loss. Some of my close friends said their final goodbye to a parent.

This all hit me around July, as I found myself once again with a heavy heart, coordinating the delivery of yet another shiva platter from yet another distant kosher deli. Or flowers. Or ordering more wine.

Then, only weeks later, there I was, writing a toast or a card for a friend turning 50, happy memories floating through my head.

2015. A year of marking milestones. For some, a year of saying goodbye.

With birthdays, I could just feel some of the celebrations. Then, the bubbles popped. I would see a post from an old high school classmate with the news of a devastating loss. Comments like “Happy Birthday” and “Welcome to the club” were then followed with “Sorry for your loss,” “No words” or something similar. Tears replaced bubbles. The collective “celebrating” was farcical, yet wonderful. The collective grief was palpable.

We were celebrating as if we were one, my fellow 50-year-olds and me. A group 50th. A group milestone. We were also mourning collectively — even for those thankfully not saying goodbye in the same way. We all — the 1965 collective, the 1983 high school graduating class, the ones who went to college without laptops or cell phones — felt the passing of time. Of course we celebrated — some publicly, some privately. We reflected, we made changes, we considered changes and we delayed changes.

We all know that big birthdays are milestones. That goes without saying. We may be struggling, we may not. We may be a mess as hormones dip or waistlines expand and children grow up. We may be in a really great place, euphoric even — like “50 is the new 40“ bullshit. It doesn’t matter. We shared in this milestone. And, of course it’s a great one — but also: WTF and OMG.

And for anyone in this group fortunate enough to still have parents or a parent, we are all still feeling these goodbyes in the pit of our stomachs. It comes with our anchors disappearing, whether it’s in the same year as reaching this important milestone or just in other, quieter ways.

A collective consciousness.

Collective mourning.

A collective party.

A collective holy shit.

A collective meltdown.

A collective appreciation of life.

A collective sense of unbearable loss.

The passing of time.

It can be easy to forget to take time to mark the moment by yourself, especially while saying goodbye symbolically, metaphorically or literally. But I say to the other 1965-ers: Don’t forget the bubbles. It’s important.

And, to my friends who didn’t quite want to celebrate yet, even if they turned 50 — for any, any reason, keep a bottle on ice. Take your time. And remember: As you freak about silly realizations like The Rocky Horror Picture Show turning 40 and Back to the Future turning 30 and how James Spader looks now versus how he looked in all those great 80s movies (I still love him), I have one thing to say — even Jon Cryer, aka “Duckie,” is turning 50 this year! We are in good company. And, thankfully, I no longer want that DeLorean from the movie. It’s too low to the ground anyway…

Happy Birthday. Sorry for your loss.

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