Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. – Joel 2:28 (NRSV)
I just marked my 54th birthday. ¡Aleluya!
I have been accused from time to time of expressing some vain proclivities (I must pre-approve all pics of me before they are posted!). I am not, however, so vain as to hide my true age. I am glad to be getting older.
You see, my mom died when she was 56.
Her mom died when she was 54.
Both had hard lives. Were poor. Experienced abuse and trauma.
My paternal grandmother lived until she was in her early 80s. I will never forget the sorrow in her eyes as her voice got quiet while speaking of the many children she had given birth to. The many that had died. Including my father’s twin. As I sat at her feet, she sadly stated, “Se enfermaban, los hospitales estaban muy lejos, no habían carreteras” – “They would get sick, there were no hospitals nearby and no roads.”
I have no doubt that poverty brought death and pain into the lives of these women. Poverty is violent. Poverty destroys dreams. Poverty crushes imagination and possibility. Poverty kills.
Even today, our health care system does quite the opposite of providing care. Insurance companies price people out of staying well. Women of color have the added benefit of being treated as emotional and overreactive – our body awareness and intuition ignored. I have heard too many stories. I have my own.
So while I do stress about many things, I don’t stress about getting older. I celebrate each and every year gifted to me as I fight each day for my sisters right to live. All of my sisters. All of my siblings.
Celebrate with me! Fight with me! Today is a new day for us all.
Birthday blessings to you, God, as I recommit to embody your spirit and your power and your love anew on this day. With joy and thanksgiving, God of life, I bless your name at all times. And the names of my ancestors, Julia, Isabel, and Donna. Amen and ashé.
Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter gratefully (though not always gracefully) serving as executive director of A Just Harvest, Senior Pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a joyful contributor to The Words of Her Mouth.