Milestones, Memories & The Meaning of Life

By: Jodi Cross

This was poised to be a cheery article about my impending birthday celebration. I was intending to write about how friends and family came from far and near to celebrate my milestone with me at a destination birthday bash in Miami. In preparation for my big day, I constructed a party plan, bought a new car, dieted for months and shopped for the perfect dress. I contracted with a hotel for an extravaganza and hired a Disc Jockey.

Everything for my perfect birthday celebration was all set. That was until a last minute trip to NY catapulted me into a family emergency, my aging parent’s ongoing health issues and the death of our neighbor. All at once my milestone turned into a flood of memories punctuated by questions about the meaning of life.

My eldest brother had been in ICU for five days when we realized that our neighbor had been admitted to the room next door. Kevin would make a full recovery but the story would be dramatically different for Mrs. F. The night before she passed, I went into her room, looked at her peaceful face and all the machines attached to her body and with my hands clenched tightly, I silently prayed over her failing body. I don’t recall a time when I have ever been so close to death. The next day, Mr. F and Matt visited my brother to see how he was doing. This selfless act of kindness simply blew me away.  As it turned out their next act would be to instruct the doctors to terminate the life support that kept his wife and his mother alive. The vivid image and the whirling sounds quickly bring things into perspective.  Ironically, a person’s last breath is something that unites all of mankind no matter what your age, social status or accomplishments may be.

Although this milestone was not a joyous one it too punctuates life and marks a time before and after. In fact, that is exactly the purpose of a milestone, to mark a path or a way along a road. To assure travelers that the proper path is being followed. Aren’t we all just travelers after all?

Suddenly, my parent’s health problems became manageable and I was happy to have them here with me to celebrate another birthday. The ache in my joints didn’t seem to bother me as much and all the worries about my next career reinvention faded into the background.

The next day, I reminisced with my family about good times, poured over photo albums of memories, and counted my blessings for the dear friendships and rich relationships I have in my life. I visited my neighbor and brought flowers and food. Gave hugs and cried along with them.  It seems like just yesterday I was a little girl fishing with my dad I couldn’t wait to get my license to drive or head off to college and get my start out in the real world. In the blink of an eye you are in the second half and you don’t even know how it happened. In fact, my friends and I often comment on how we still feel like we are eighteen on the inside, then you look in the mirror and each line tells a different story.

Milestones are important for reflection, recounting the journey and making new memories. I like Oprah’s quote, “The more you praise and celebrate life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” That’s a quote I can live by. As I enter this next chapter, I realize I am just a traveler in this world but it is the friends, family and people you meet along the way that matter most. How poignant that my neighbors, friends and family have celebrated birthdays, pond parties, weddings and now funerals along the road in this life. That is what life’s journey is all about, I am blessed to have some many people to share it with.

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and writer and can be reached at