I recently had the honor to lead a surprise "Prayerful Birthday Celebration" for a dear friend of mine who turned 60. I worked with her husband and children to craft a meaningful service with music and themes taken from The Sound of Music, her favorite movie. We wanted to keep the service short; we knew there would be lots of small children around and a brunch to follow. And while this was a family only party, the guests still numbered close to 60! First off, I wanted to offer a way for people to express their feelings toward this remarkable woman. My friend is dearly loved by all so I had a feeling that, given the chance, everyone would want to get up and say something. That would probably take too much time. So I recycled my "Test Tubes of Love" ritual from my own birthday a couple years ago as a way for all to participate.
The service opened with the song "The Sound of Music" and closed with "My Favorite Things," the latter also being the theme of the brunch. The "presenters" in the service were mostly just her immediate family. I opened with a prayer to ground, center, and raise up the spirit of all. Then her daughter, a son, and his wife shared a lovely poem. Next two of her brothers performed a beautiful original song, also one of her favorites.
For the next part, I explained the way for all to share, if they desired. On the altar was a beautiful heart shaped vase which would become her "Vase of Love," the variation on my test tubes. During the brunch the vase, pens, and strips of elegant paper would be set on a special table so people could at their leisure write their message to the guest of honor and then place the strip in the vase. I shared my own personal story about how much my friend meant to me and why and then shortened it to a phrase that would fit on a strip, by way of example.
Next her youngest son and his wife sang, while holding their first child (and my friend's first granddaughter) "Do-Re-Mi" with lyrics I had re-worked using the letters of my friends first and middle name, (luckily totaling eight). This was really fun and special because during the creation process I found out that she sings "Do-Re-Mi" to her new granddaughter whenever she babysits. Her husband then read a beautiful excerpt about angels.
Lastly, since this was such a significant milestone in her life, I created a ritual to honor and recognize my friend's transition into this new phase of life. I will share the "script" of that ceremony here, but I have changed the names for the sake of privacy. My friend is Rose, and her husband is Frank.
"Frank, if you'll please stay up here with me as you are an integral part to the last piece of today's service – our Threshold Ritual.
"This blue scarf is going to represent our threshold today, symbolizing a river. So often in mythology, literature, and movies, when the heroes take a journey, they have to cross water and are changed because of it. Water has long been used in ritual and ceremony because it represents so many things: a source of energy, the birthplace of life, a medium for cleansing. It's appropriate for today because in Taoism water is associated with yin, the feminine energy. Water changes constantly, adapting to its surroundings and yet it also powerfully shapes things over time. Water mirrors but does not keep the images to itself and it offers clarity. So let this scarf be our water, representing a river of crossing.
(lay scarf on floor)
"Rose, will you please come to this side of the threshold?
"As I mentioned at the beginning of the service, Rose, you are at the threshold of the phase of life when you become a keeper of wisdom to be shared with other generations. For women it is when you leave the mothering phase and enter grandmother consciousness. At this time you can also acquire a new sense of freedom. Traditionally women entering this phase are referred to as the 'Crone' which unfortunately has taken on a negative connotation in our modern world. But the word 'crone' means 'woman who is wise.' In ancient times to 'crone' meant 'to crown,' the crone was considered the Crown citizen of a tribe or community. Here is a quote by Jean Shinoda Bolen from her book Crones Don't Whine,
" 'It is time to reclaim and redefine "crone" from the word pile of disparaging names to call older women, and to make becoming a "crone" a crowning inner achievement of the third phase of life. To be a crone is about inner development, not outer appearance. A crone is a woman who has wisdom, compassion, humor, courage, and vitality. She has a sense of truly being herself, can express what she knows and feels, and take action when need be. She does not avert her eyes or numb her mind from reality. She can see the flaws and imperfections in herself and others, but the light in which she sees is not harsh and judgmental. She has learned to trust herself to know what she knows.'
"Rose, I believe you already fully embody all that quote says. And this celebration is truly to acknowledge you as a 'Crown Citizen.' If you are willing to accept this new role, I will ask you in a few moments to consciously and with intention cross this threshold that lays before you. Take note and release any fears of being alone on this journey. For while the actual crossing you make today will be solitary, your husband who has already crossed this threshold, waits for you on the other side to help and welcome you.
"I invite everyone, to now stand, as you are able. As Rose crosses this threshold please hold her highest good in your heart along with your love and blessings.
"Now Rose, is it your intention to cross this threshold into new life, to claim your Crone, to be a Crown Citizen of this world, offering your wisdom and guidance when needed, embodying love and compassion, and claiming your self-worth as a woman with strength to stand in her life? If this be so, please say 'I do.' And now take a breath and when you are ready, please step across.
"Everyone please help me welcome Crown Citizen Rose."