Celebrating happy milestones despite tragedy

By Holly Shively and By Holly Shively

Imagine seeing your name plastered across the news for causing mass destruction.

Harvey and Irma Schluter, a couple married for 75 years, have been experiencing just this as they watch hurricanes bearing their names tormenting Florida, Texas and other parts of the world.

While this situation is pretty rare, a more common and unfortunate scenario unfolds when birthdays, anniversaries and other celebratory milestones fall on the same date as tragic events and disasters.

Some people feel passionately that celebrating these happy events is entirely inappropriate when the rest of a nation observes a somber day. Sept. 11 is one of the hardest days for people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks that changed American discourse. But those who lost their lives to the destruction that unfolded that day wouldn’t want their legacy to involve hindering the celebrations that every human deserves.

While going out to a bar for a birthday or having a nice dinner for an anniversary on days marking tragedy seems taboo, life is meant to be celebrated.

Life begins to lose meaning when we don’t celebrate our happiness, accomplishments and memories. The best way to live in constant unhappiness is to let life skate by without stepping back to appreciate the small things. Anniversaries and birthdays are no small events, and if we celebrate the small things, you best believe we should be celebrating the bigger events even in the face of sadness.

If someone wants to spend their birthdays out with friends just like anyone born on Sept. 12 or 13 would, they should, but there are also many other ways to celebrate. As we get older, birthdays can involve service, a day off to relax and so much more, especially if it really makes an individual uncomfortable.

The good news for those with celebrations on tragic dates is that it won’t last forever. Similar to people born or married on Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor), the events on 9/11 will never be forgotten, but time will heal wounds. Eventually, they will have a more normal birthday or anniversary.

There’s a time and place for people to mourn and people to celebrate. The unfortunate truth is sometimes the time element is exactly the same for both. There’s no reason, however, that people can’t both observe a historical tragedy in the right place and observe the celebrations they deserve just like everyone else.