Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Most Important Day of My Life

Below is an essay that I just sent off to a contest in Real Simple magazine. The instructions were to write about one of the most important days in your life and how it affected you. I hope you enjoy it . . . and I hope I win.

The Most Important Day of My Life
By Carrie Bevell Partridge

The date was March 5, 1975. I don't remember what the weather was like that day or if anything particularly interesting was happening in the world. I do know that it was my grandfather's 50th birthday and that my dad was wearing a maroon warm-up suit. He had been running a basketball practice, but he came as soon as he got the news. I don't recall whether or not my sister Julie was there when it happened. My mother was close-by, though, and was crying. Everyone gathered around me in the sterile hospital room. I lay there naked, unsure, and scared. I was quite traumatized by the incident and was completely unable to talk. All I could do was cry. I didn't recognize anyone at the time, yet they all seemed to know exactly who I was. I was being poked and prodded by nurses, and they worked carefully to wash the blood out of my hair. I felt cold, and the lights seemed too bright.

I had been pushed. It wasn't an accident either. While everyone seemed confident that I was going to be okay, I wasn't so sure at that moment. Even my mother, through her own tears, assured me that everything was going to be alright and that she loved me very much. It took some time, but after observing everyone's smiling faces, I started to feel better about the situation. Though still unable to speak, I managed to blink back some tears and try to familiarize myself with my surroundings. It all looked and felt so strange. What had happened to me? One minute I was safe and warm and content, and the next minute I was thrust into a state of shock and confusion. What had happened? I was born.

Since that traumatic day more than 33 years ago, I have come to be grateful for it. I have even forgiven my mother for pushing me. After all, that day was just the beginning of an amazing journey. I have come to understand that had I not experienced the tribulation of the birthing process--literally being pushed out into the world--I would never have been able to experience all the joys and pleasures of this life, including pushing three of my own babies out into the world! I would never have known the beauty of a sunset, the joy of a good belly laugh, the serenity of a rainy day, the delight of friendships, the satisfaction of a good meal, the splendor of the mountains, or the sweetness of my husband's love. Granted, I also would never have known the pain of a heartbreak, the fear of being rejected, the disappointment of a dream that didn't come true, the frustration of injustice, or the grief in the death of a loved one. But these are all part of this life, too, and even the hard times play an important role. If nothing else, they help us fully appreciate the beautiful moments when they do happen. And they do.

If I had never been born, I never would have known how great it is to have lots of siblings and that those same sisters and brother I once fought with would later become some of my very best friends. I never would have heard the marvelous stories Granddaddy tells about growing up in the Bronx or about playing minor league baseball or about when my great-grandmother was scared to death the first time she saw an automobile (She thought it was a monster!). I never would have known how wonderful homemade ice cream is, especially after watching my grandfather labor over its making--back in the days when you had to crank it by hand. I never would have experienced the joy of learning to do things for the first time--walking, riding a bike, driving a car. I never would have seen that I'm like my mother and my father. I never would have played sports or learned to cook or write or sing. I never would have met Kevin Partridge and had three beautiful children with him. I never would have taught Callie to read or Caleb to work a puzzle or Katie to play dress-up. I never would have known how fun it is to travel and see other parts of the world and other cultures. I never would have known that knitting can be so creative and so therapeutic at the same time. I never would have known the healing effect of a hug or the power of kind words. And I never would have had the pleasure of serving God on this earth . . . had I never been born.

Now that I've been here a while, I wonder how the rest of my life will impact others. I can already see how it is affecting my family (Admittedly, it's not always good.), but I may never know how much a smile and a thank-you can mean to the lady at the check-out counter or how leaving a good tip says just as much about me as it does about the waitress who served me. Even the people standing around each of the gas pumps, as we're all filling up, can use some encouragement (especially at these prices!). Each of us leaves a legacy, and it's not just for our children. We leave traces of it everywhere we go and with every person we encounter. Now I'll be the first to admit that I am not always thinking of others before myself. In fact, I battle my selfishness daily even when serving my own family. However, each time I do consider others' needs and then act on it, I am always rewarded. I find that on the days that I am feeling down or depressed, if I will just do something to serve another human being--to really think beyond myself--that my spirits are lifted and things are put into better perspective. After all, this life is not just about me, and living as if it were will only lead to a great feeling of emptiness.

Every Christmas season while we're decorating our tree, my family and I watch It's a Wonderful Life. We snicker at some of the scenarios Clarence reveals to George--like that everyone is very mean or crazy or in jail and that Mary is a homely-looking spinster, all because George Bailey was never born. But it does make me stop and think about all the people I have touched in my lifetime, whether I realize it or not. I also consider the many roles I have played in my life thus far: daughter, sister, niece, cousin, granddaughter, aunt, wife, mother, student, employee, teacher, hostess, friend. Each of these is important, and each of these has provided an area of influence for me. The influence may be very simple, but it is there just the same. And on the days when I question my significance in the world (which can happen quite often in the life of a stay-at-home mom), I try to remind myself that God created me for a very real purpose. That purpose may not be to find the cure for cancer or to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and I might not receive a lot of recognition for my contributions, but they are a purpose and contributions that have been designated for me.

There have been many wonderfully significant days in my life--my wedding day, the days my babies were born, the day I decided to follow Christ--but the day of my birth started it all. I have heard the story of that day pretty much every March 5th since 1975, because my father recounts the tale, always beginning with, "Let's see. Fifteen years ago today . . . " (Obviously, the number changes according to my age.) He says that the details have become a bit hazy over the years, but I still like to hear it. It reminds me that my birthday truly is a day for celebration. I shouldn't moan that I'm another year older; I should rejoice that I have been given another year to live!


Nikki said...

That is a really cool post, I love your writing style!

Nikki for a fresh look to help a great cause!

Marie said...

Well, if God had made me an editor of Real Simple magazine, I'd publish it! :) Thanks for the reminder that God has made us all uniquely and for a purpose.

josh hall said...


awesome... continue to follow your dream. i am proud of ya lady... i dont mind you cut katie's hair, but you cut caleb's and we are fighting!

Gabby said...

Great job Carrie!!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

I didn't win. Oh well. :)