The Importance Of Celebrating Life During A Pandemic




This much is true, the pandemic is a real party-pooper. The uncertainty and unease caused by COVID-19 has left people stressed, depressed and, for many, in little or no mood for festivities. If there is cause for celebration, like an anniversary, birth or birthday, the rules around distancing have made traditional activities difficult, if not impossible. Yet it is important to celebrate, one way or another, as the benefits – to our health and our relationships – are immense and often immeasurable.

But how do you celebrate during a pandemic?

Mike turned sixty this year. Sixty is one of those ages that is often met with larger-than-normal fanfare. COVID-19 put an end to that. When Mike’s partner, Cindy, was asked by her brother-in-law about party plans, somewhat despondent, Cindy replied, “We’ll celebrate his birthday when we can. When all this is over.”

What Cindy didn’t realize is Mike’s brother, Peter, had other plans. COVID or no COVID. Rules or no rules. Under the cover of dark, with help from his wife and teenage children, Peter decorated Mike and Cindy’s front lawn with celebratory signage, streamers and the like. It was one way to recognize the occasion, to not let it pass quietly or sadly, while respecting the latest, strictest rules around distancing.

On the morning of his birthday, Larry woke to a surprise. From doing nothing with anyone, now everyone was invited to join in the fun. ‘Honk for Mike, it’s his birthday’ one sign read. It was a “pick-me-up”, said Mike, that had an even greater, more surprising impact on his East York neighbours.

One older couple from across the road, who has known Mike and Cindy for years, said seeing signs of celebration was “uplifting.” Like many of their peers, the elderly couple has taken self-isolating serious – to the extreme – and, for months now, they have done little to get out in the community. Mike’s birthday signs were a sign of life and of hope. Mike’s birthday turned out to be about more than Mike.

COVID-19 doesn’t have to stop us from celebrating life. We can still take a few minutes or an entire day to take stock, to recognize someone important and, in the process, to count our blessings.

Mat is turning 37. Sure, that’s no 60 but that’s no reason not to celebrate. Like Cindy, he too wondered, “How?” during a time of increasing cases of coronavirus? Mat chose to make a day that is all about him be about others – about helping those less fortunate.

Mat set up an online fundraiser through Canada Helps with the hope of, over the course of two weeks, raising $370 for 37 years. He clearly underestimated his family and friends. Within days, Mat’s goal was surpassed; the proceeds helping a charity that he has long supported – Haven Toronto – and elder men impacted by poverty, homelessness and isolation.

As in Mat’s case, sometimes we know who we are helping through our actions. And sometimes we don’t. Either way, one thing is for sure, if we don’t take time today to build memories, to feel grateful and feel special, we may have nothing to reminisce about tomorrow.

In a New York Times article by Anna Goldfarb it is suggested that maybe “doing something for someone else on your birthday becomes the norm, on par with receiving a gift, blowing out candles or noshing on cake.” Maybe Goldfarb has something here. “19 million people share a birthday across the world every day. If everybody just did one nice thing for someone on their birthday, it would create a shift in the world.”


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