Friends of ours celebrated their Mother's 80th birthday a few days ago. I say friends - they're more like family. Our contact with them has ebbed and flowed in the intervening years but despite this we still manage to come together for the important events. I'm so glad that we do.
Like us, their parents had four children. Unlike us, the ratio was divided into two boys and two girls, whereas we are four girls. We grew up together and went to the same school but I suspect our strongest connection lies ingrained in our Irish - Catholic roots and the fact that both our Mum's belonged to the Mother's Union.
We all have our gifts and parents who encouraged us to use them. In this we were and are still blessed. But where they leave us behind is in their ability to embrace life fully with a determination that at times leaves us standing. Their advantage lies in music.
As children, their Dad, (Frank), taught all of them to play an instrument before enrolling them into his band. Most weekends would be spent at the Irish Centre playing, singing and dancing. (Oh, how they love to dance!) He tried to teach us too but we didn't have the same aptitude or energy. I can remember having a go on the keyboards and the guitar - I still have an old guitar gathering dust in the corner somewhere which I keep meaning to pick up but somehow never do. I wish I had stuck with it though because if you have music you already know how to speak a universal language. Music opens doors where otherwise they might be closed.
They don't need an excuse either and we always feel better for having spent time in their company.They are contagious in their optimism. What begins as a 'pop in for a cuppa' soon evolves into a sing song and a knees up. For them, three or four is enough, and more - well that's just a bonus. They've had more parties than we've had hot dinners because for them life is a party that should be celebrated at every opportunity, even the sad times. Especially the sad times.
When Frank died, we gathered again. Tears soon turned to laughter, words of comfort became a song and the legacy of this wonderful man, husband and father lives on in the music of his children and his children's children.
Now their Mother is 80 years young and still going strong, still finding a reason to put on her party dress and sing along to the music. Frank is with her in spirit as our own dear Mum is with us,( who loved a good shindig too). For where there's life there's love and where there's love there will always be music to remind us of who we are and where we came from.
If that isn't something to celebrate... I don't know what is.