Cathy Chester | An Empowered Spirit

Life Lessons On The Occasion Of My Son’s 21st Birthday: Our Journeys Are Unique To Each Of Us

Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to grow up and have a family of her own.  She dreamed of meeting a knight in shining armor that would sweep her off her feet and take her away to live happily ever after.



Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to read.  She loved reading about strong-minded, resolute women who were making headlines, like Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug.  She thought it’d be cool to someday burn her training bra.  But she was too young and naïve at the time, so she continued to dream about her knight in shining armor and having a family.  Would the knight be willing to do housework?


Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to live a long and happy life. She dreamed of someday marrying her Prince Charming and, together, they’d have a happy and healthy child.  She loved to write, and always enjoyed helping others in need.  She always knew that somehow she wanted to find a perfect balance between her family life and a life filled with passion.


But, alas, not all little girls’ dreams come true.  Life simply doesn’t work that way.  As John Lennon famously wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

So far, my life lessons were:

  • Barbie taught me what a perfect body looked like, didn’t she?
  • Peter Pan taught me that dreams do come true, didn’t he?
  • James Taylor taught me I’ve got a friend. Would that always be true?
  • Marlo Thomas taught me “That Girl” was the personification of what every young woman could have when working in The Big City, right?


But life has a mind of its own, and sometimes we learn harsh yet valuable lessons.  John Lennon was right.  What we envision for ourselves and what life hands us are two different things.

  • I was diagnosed with MS at age 26.  I was totally unprepared for that sudden bend in the road.
  • I had two miscarriages, and believed I’d have to prepare for a life without children.


When I finally became blissfully pregnant for a third time, it was the charm.  Two weeks shy of nine months, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy little boy.

A son's blessing

My son has been a blessing to me every day of his life.

The life I envisioned for myself so long ago was finally beginning to unfold.

Today is my son’s 21st birthday, and he is the whole reason I’m writing this post.  I wrote it because I want him to understand that no matter what I learned in my childhood – the joys, frustrations, loves and heartaches, mine is a different road than the one he is traveling.

He has his own journey.

I want him to know he has taught me more than anyone or anything else will.

He’s taught me, through his genteel manner and by his example, about patience, understanding and inner strength.

And he’s given me more love than I ever imagined.

Life Lessons

Twenty-one years ago, my father’s gift to him was a case of fine port, with instructions that the first bottle be opened on his 21st birthday.  In the next week, I look forward to all of us being together to open the first beautiful bottle from this case (with his permission, of course!), and to toast to his happiness on his big day.

May he always be surrounded with unconditional love.  May he find his own brand of happiness, with a life filled with purpose and compassion, according to his own desires and principles, and on his own terms.

As my beloved uncle always ended his letters to me, “I hug you with my words.”

Happy 21st birthday, my dear son.

Happy Birthday

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36 thoughts on “Life Lessons On The Occasion Of My Son’s 21st Birthday: Our Journeys Are Unique To Each Of Us

  1. Helene Cohen Bludman

    *wiping away tears* Cathy, you have outdone yourself with this beautiful and touching post. Your life may not have turned out to be what you imagined, but you are an example of how to live life with an empowered spirit, no matter what cards are dealt.

    1. Post author

      Oh, Helene! Wiping away tears as I read your comment. Sniff, sniff. How lovely.

      No one’s life turns out as they imagine, don’t you agree? But we make a wonderful life (yes, thanks George Bailey!) with what we do have, and there ARE so many blessings in ours.

      Thank you, my dear friend~

    1. Post author

      Thank you, Walker. Your comments mean a lot to me.

      It is my great pleasure to have met you as well.

      Blessings of the day~

  2. Julia

    What a lovely tribute to your son! I think my son (about 6 months younger than your son) had the same dalmation jammies. 🙂 Those footy pj’s are just so sweet, aren’t they?

    The message you are trying to convey to your son is so important – “try to learn from my life lessons, but your journey is your own, and you will have to learn things a different way. Oh, and I love you so incredibly deeply.”


    1. Post author

      I LOVED those dalmatian pj’s, Julia!

      You are so sweet in your comments, and that last line? Phew. I love you right back, my friend.

      Stay warm with my hugs~

    1. Post author

      Thank you, Sharon. You know too well the strong love we feel for our children. We are both lucky to have such love in our lives.

      I will think of you as I drink some port tomorrow. (Unless more snow stops us from getting to my parents! We should be in CA…)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts~

  3. Sheryl

    Teary-eyed as I read this, for so many reasons. For your words, your struggles, your strength and especially your fierce love for your son. I relate to it all. Beautiful. I love that your dad gave him a case of port to save for this special day. Cheers!
    Sheryl recently posted…Do You Fake It?My Profile

    1. Post author

      As I drink some port tomorrow, I will not only toast to my family, but to my good friends as well. I count you among the ones I cherish.

      Thank you for your lovely comments, Sheryl.

      Have a great day~

    1. Post author

      Thanks so much, Jennifer. I appreciate your lovely sentiments, and will do all I can to make life wonderful from here on in!

      Have a marvelous day~

    1. Post author

      Thank you for your good wishes and lovely compliments, my friend Lisa. I sincerely appreciate them all.

      Have a wonderful day~

    1. Post author

      Oh, my dear Lois, I am so proud and honored to be your friend. And I just wrote to your mom that you ARE sweet! 🙂

      Thanks for reading and enjoying my post. We love our children. Happy Birthday to Alex as well. I love December babies!

      Big hugs to you always~

  4. Claudia Schmidt

    Oh, such a beautiful post. I have an 18 year old who will be going off to college next year and this rings so true for me, as well.

    Also, on another note, my mom had MS as well and so I’ve been so happy to have found your blog recently. I’ll be back for more.

    1. Post author


      When you said your mom “had” MS, I assume she passed away. For that I am sorry, and want to express my condolences.

      I am thrilled you found my blog. Yes, life does go so fast with our children. It’s remarkable. I loved the process of looking for a college together with my son, so cherish those moments.

      Nice to meet you, and thank you for sharing your thoughts~

      1. Claudia Schmidt

        Hi Cheryl,
        Yes, she passed away about 7 years ago, but it was after a long and relatively healthy life, considering the fact that she had MS. She was a remarkable woman and faced her illness with a lot more strength than most.

        I look forward to reading more of your blog!
        Claudia Schmidt recently posted…My Top 10 Favorite Books of 2013My Profile

        1. Post author

          Tomorrow I will be posting the “best gift I ever got” as part of a blog hop. I think you’ll like it, because it speaks to what you said about your mom. Courage, love and strength despite adversity. She must have been an incredible woman. I am sorry for your loss and am glad she led a good life despite MS.

          Take good care~

  5. Lois's mom, Edith

    Cathy, Your love for your son and your good heart come across loud and clear in this post. I would like to add my good wishes on his 21st birthday – and may there be many, many more happy birthdays.

    1. Post author

      I was so shocked to see your comments here, Edith. So much so that I texted Lois to tell her what a sweet and wonderful mother (and modern) she had. Thank you for your lovely comments, and for allowing me the great pleasure of “meeting” you here, on my blog!

      Thank you for your daughter, who is a great friend to me. I’m sorry, but she IS sweet!

      Wonderful to hear from you.

      Have a wonderful day~

    1. Post author

      How sweet of you to say, Renee. It means a lot to me, and I sincerely thank you.

      Have a wonderful day~

  6. Susan Bonifant

    Cathy, I know sometimes an outlook like yours evolves of some suffering. But either way, your words and stories soothe the soul. How lucky you are to be so peaceful inside, and how lucky your son is to have you in his life.

    1. Post author


      You are so insightful in what you read, how you interpret it, and what you write. I had to show my husband your comments because it touched me so.

      Thank you for leaving your thoughts. I am indebted to you.


    1. Post author

      Thank you, Jennifer. I’ll let you know how the port is. YUMMY (and it gives you a feeling of inner warmth, so you know in this frigid time how wonderful that will feel!)

      Best always~

    1. Post author

      Oh, I am so glad you liked it, Jessica. Yes, wiping tears as I wrote it as well.

      Best to you always~

  7. Doreen McGettigan

    Cathy you have such a wonderful family. What a gift from your father, that is going to be an amazing toast and I know you and your husband raised a remarkable young man who thinks for himself and makes up his own mind:)
    Happy birthday to your baby because that is what he will always be.

    1. Post author

      Oh, thank you my sweet friend! Actually, I wrote this piece 2 years ago so my baby is now 23! And, yes, that port was quite exquisite. Something to be savored and a great magical memory for my son to always have a special connection with my beloved dad. Thanks for your kind words.

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