Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 27, 2012

La Breithe Sona Dom!

That is the Irish for Happy Birthday to Me!  At least I think it may be, and who is to say me wrong.  As with most things Irish it is a more or less wild guess at the truth of the matter; a guess, or, perhaps, a trick.  You may take it as you wish.

It’s a bit more than six months since the occasion, my 70th such.  Our daughter, a busy nurse, wife and mother, engineered a little surprise on Saturday night about a week ago, gathering a number of folks in one place to smile and bless me with their presence and attention for a few hours.

When the doors to the room were opened and I beheld them there I was stunned. I still am.  OH, it took only a millisecond to realize this was something planned for me.  All of them were people I had known or worked with, or lived with.  Most of them probably had some slight knowledge of each other.  But,  except for former workmates and family, they did not know each other well, or at all.  This helped me to realize what was taking place was in some way connected to me.  But why?  What was the reason for all the good cheer?  I could not begin to understand.  And, who had herded this many folks together for whatever the reason could have been was something I had as little a clue as I had to the Theory of Anything.

Then someone yelled “Happy Birthday, Peter!” and my confusion only deepened.  I waited for the punchline, as faces smiled at me and my son-in-law took pictures.  (All or most of them out of focus or I would have bored you with some.)

Then our daughter Jeanne, the force behind all of this, explained that it was a surprise birthday party for me.  I think I may have exercised an option to run like hell if it had been available.  With little worries about how it might all turn out, I walked further in.  And as I walked a step or two a thought began to build in me which has remained.  And this is it:


Have you read The Chronicles of Narnia?  Do you remember the last few pages of the last book in that series, the last few pages of “The Last Battle“?  You will remember then,  the children and all their friends entering heaven, running “further up and further in” with great joy and enthusiasm and wonder.  That was how I began to feel as I walked among friends and family, some of whom I had not seen for years, and I the only one who knew them all, and loved them all.

I felt a rising joy, wonder and gratitude, and something else.  I felt something I can only name as blessing or grace.  For me, at least, there were others present; all the friends and family who were not there, the ones who were invited who could not come, but not only them.  I felt the ones whom I had not seen in many years, the ones whom I could not see.  Their faces and their names, the times we had together came flashing through my mind as I walked among those who had come.  They became the agents of the love of and for the others who were themselves somehow witnesses at the feast.  Witnesses and I know as sure as I know I am typing this, present at the feast, too.

How strange it was that whole night, and how strange still it is, that I am flooded with these guests at my party in the room; that Upper Room which it was indeed.

So, I still am going further up and in even a week after, in this company of fellow travelers.

Another image stays with me, too, the image of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, and St. Peter’s suggestion that we all stay there.  It was a thought I had when I looked at the faces of the people who spent those too few hours with me in that room.  I saw, God help me it’s the truth to me at least, something brighter, cleaner, deeper, more original, in each of them, and saw Someone shining out.

Had a little bit of heaven fallen out the sky that night I would not have scoffed at the finding of it right there.  It seems so to me, and all of them a part of it.  For the gift of those hours to them all I’m so grateful, and to the maker of the feast and His beautiful assistants.

To the ones who were away, I took you along, and still have you.  Thank you all, of course.

Now let us run together further up and further in.  Isn’t the truth of it that all the way to heaven is heaven itself.  Last Saturday night’s time together was all the proof I need.


  1. And a blessed belated birthday from me, Peter! I would have loved to have been at that celebration. There’s a song that we sing in some language–I can’t even remember which–at our birthdays that translates: May you have many years in the glory. That’s my wish for you.

    • Thank you, Sister. It’s a lovely sentiment, and I appreciate it. When is yours?

    • December 17. The beginning of the O Antiphons . . .

    • Ooh, how cool! I’m February 2, the Feast of the Presentation. My friend the English Professor rather significantly told me I shared a birthday with James Joyce. Dismissively, I said I never knew that.

    • February 2! What a beautiful feast . . . and it definitely tops min!

  2. Stunningly beautiful.

    • Thank you, Kathy.


%d bloggers like this: