Jessie’s 79th by
(234 Stories)

Prompted By Special Birthdays

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Like most kids I had a yearly birthday party,   and then like many girls of my generation a Sweet Sixteen.

In later years we had a wonderful celebration for my son’s 13th birthday at his bar mitzvah.   (see Ghostwriting in the Family)

And later a fun party for my husband’s 60th at Yankee Stadium.  And then a memorable joint celebration with my uncle who shared the date,  as I turned 60 and he turned 85.   (See  Birthday Calendar)

And more recently for my 75th birthday I hosted a lovely luncheon for friends.   But in my mind’s eye none was as special as the party I threw for my mother’s 79th.

Born February 23, 1918,  my mother Jessie would have turned 80 in 1998.  My dad had died three years earlier and after his death my mother was understandably depressed.   But she took the prescribed antidepressant meds,  joined a Great Books reading group,  continued playing bridge,  and visited out-of-town friends and family.

She even insisted on driving herself from New York to Providence for my son’s college graduation,  and the next day driving on alone to Boston to visit an old friend.  And for the winter months she rented a Florida condo,  and carried on with her usual energetic and determined spirit.   (See  My Game Mother,  Elbow Grease,  and Art Imitates Life)

Then in 1997 as her 79th birthday approached I decided to throw her a party.  I invited family and my mother’s dear friends,  and it was a joyous day.

I thank my lucky stars we celebrated then rather than waiting another year for her milestone 80th.   But perhaps I had a premonition,  because months later my mother – who I remember rarely being sick –  developed a heart condition.   After a brief hospitalization she died on February 6, 1998,  two weeks short of what would have been her 80th birthday.  (See The Dinner Party)

And so now my beloved Jessie,  all my memories of you and of your last very special birthday will forever be blessings.

Dana Susan Lehrman

JESSIE & ME,  Charleston, SC 1946

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Mothers, Birthdays
Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wonderful that you made her 79th such a special occasion, Dana. Sometimes, we do a get a feeling about what and when we need to act. It sounds like, even though she missed your father terribly, she continued on with a full life until the end. May her memory be a blessing.

  2. Marian says:

    As a believer in the intuition you describe, Dana, I am so glad you put together that party for your mother’s 79th birthday. That is a wonderful way to remember her. My brother and I did a party for my mom’s 80th and everyone had a wonderful time. Some of her friends flew in from southern California, and we were glad they did, because a few of them died the following year. We have good memories of that party day.

    • I’m so glad you had a similiar experience Mare!

      Willy, the friend I mention my mother drove to Boston to see, was one of my folks’ oldest friends, the widower of a woman my mother had gone to college with, and the two couples had been very close.
      Willy was not well and I’m sure my mother knew it might be the last time they would meet – and it was. So glad she took that drive.

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    It’s fortunate and wonderful that you had this sweet and fun last birthday together.

    We did a big party for my grandmother’s 80th. Luckily, she had six more after that before she passed. But I still remember the 80th shindig:(

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    A beautiful story, Dana, that reminds us to celebrate special events in life, even if they don’t fall on the exact milestone dates. It reminds me of the big 93rd birthday we had for my mother-in-law, which turned out to be her last. We all remember it as being very special.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    I’m so glad that you got to throw that wonderful 79th birthday party for your mom, Dana. And it reminded me that my brother and I did the same for our mother’s 80th. And she got sick and died not that long afterwards, so, like you, we felt incredibly lucky that we celebrated when we did. And aren’t the memories grand, if bittersweet?

  6. Good on you for seizing the moment. February 23rd was my paternal grandfather’s birthday, too. But vis a vis my dad I was not as foresighted. He died two months shy of his 90th birthday, at which time my sisters and I had planned a grand celebration. Fortunately we all had been together the previous fall, at which time, for some reason, my sister Barbara on the spur of the moment baked a layer cake. And put birthday candles on it.

    • Good Tom, perhaps like me, your sister Barbara had a premonition.
      But lucky to have had your dad for so long! I lost my father in his early 80s, so I can’t feel too bereft, but sadly my husband was in college when his dad died – much, much too soon.

  7. Suzy says:

    As everyone else has already said, how fortunate that you decided to celebrate her 79th, instead of waiting til 80. Clearly we should all celebrate as often as we can! Glad I had such a great celebration with you a week ago!

  8. Enthralling story, and wonderful photo of the young Jessie and the very young you.

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    What a warm and sweet tribute to your mom. As others have said, you did well to seize the day and celebrate when you could. It reminds us to celebrate as much as we can.

  10. Susan Bennet says:

    I am touched by your gallant mother, Dana, doing her best to pick herself up and go on as best she could (and it was more than good) after she lost your father. I do believe angels message us to inspire actions such as the off-year party you gave your mom. Good daughters are a blessing.

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