Offer a Gesture

The late winter weather is ever changing. One day recently my son and I were soaking up the sun on our front porch and on the next day there was a world of white snow. Warm days followed and the snow began to melt but this morning when I opened the door I was greeted by the frigid cold again.

In March I pay special attention to the weather. As winter shifts to spring I want to be sure to notice the last snow fall because I know it won’t be happening again for many months. It’s tricky though, because you never know it’s the last snowfall until after it happens.

So in March every time it snows I say to myself “this might be the last snowfall of the winter!” I get excited and a little nostalgic as I honour the change of the seasons.

There are always changes that are happening in our lives. Someone moves into a new home, leaves a relationship, opens a new business, retires or has a special birthday.

As with the seasons there is no turning back when these life transitions occur. Marking their significance with a ceremony thoughtfully planned or even by simply tucking a few special moments into the center of a party can make a big difference in the persons’ life and will also leave a lasting impression on the family and friends who are witnessing their change. Sometimes all you need to offer is a simple gesture.

The year my father turned 90 my parents asked us ‘kids’ to postpone the celebration and instead come and visit a few months later when the weather would be warmer and we could spend some time outside together.

Somehow postponing a 90th birthday party didn’t seem right. We sent a big handmade ‘Happy Birthday’ sign so it would be obvious to my father that he was surrounded by the love of his family. My mom hung it outside their door at the retirement center for all to see.

I sent a birthday letter. Writing a letter is a simple gesture that takes only a few thoughtful moments when you are in the right frame of heart. I hoped my words would compose a sense of comfort for my father on his birthday.

February 2011
Dear Dad,

Today is your 90th birthday! I wish I could be there celebrating with you…I look forward to having a party when we’re all together later this year.

90 years…that’s a lot of years!! Nine decades. You’ve lived through so many changes in yourself and in the world around you. I’m impressed!

Ideally I think your 90th birthday should be a day when your family sits around you in your living room and listens to all of your stories because by now you’ve got a whole long lifetime of them!

And as we listen to your stories I know we’d realize that in a way they are our stories too. You’ve passed them on to us by being our father and our stories have become a continuation of yours. I’ll offer the metaphor of a tree, you being the trunk and us your children, being the branches that extend out. I guess that’s how we learn as humans, by carrying the stories of one another and choosing to live our lives with (family) stories as our reference point.

So ideally on your 90th birthday we would share a whole day listening to your story. We would have lots of questions and you’d be hearing us say…”Oh, yes, I remember that!” and “Oh, I never knew that, REALLY?!”

Let’s plan to have a story day together later this year, Dad, YOUR STORY day. We can get out the photos and the slides and really have a great day together.

Of course, only if that’s what YOU’D like to do! After all you’ve been a son, a husband, a father, a teacher, a mentor and had many other roles that have served OTHERS during your lifetime. Your 90th Birthday celebration should finally be ALL ABOUT YOU!

I love you Dad!

Your Daughter,


When someone you care for is going through a transition, take the time to offer a gesture that expresses love.

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  1. Rachaael Simpson
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    It snowed on my crocus last night. I remember your words and look outside as I make a conscious effort to remember “this might be the last snow of the season”.
    Right now I am longing to plant in my garden, but by end of August I’ll be looking to the mountains and saying prayers for snow.
    I’ll appreciate what is here, now.

    • Jovanna
      Posted March 19, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      This is so sweet, Rachael. It brings tears to my eyes. I love knowing that today you are thinking about snow and your crocus and appreciating now.

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