Birthdays have a new meaning

Published 12:00 pm Monday, August 22, 2016

I didn’t know Jason and Lea Farese, Michael and Kim Perry or Austin and Angie Poole.

I imagine I may have met them at some point during my 10 years in Oxford, but I had no shared experiences or memories of the three couples who lost their lives last week in a plane crash.

In the days following, I learned a bit about each one, having to write the stories that would follow in the EAGLE. They were so loved and respected by so many, I am truly sorry I did not know them. They made a huge impact on so many in our community.

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Attending the community memorial service Saturday at the Tad Smith Coliseum, pen and notebook in hand, I listened to the speakers and took notes. I was at work.

Then, I looked up and saw a child in the front row crying, and that’s when the reporter in me left the room and I sat there as a mother, a daughter, a grandmother. I cried for the couple’s children and the 3,000 or more people there who did have memories of them, and would miss their loved ones and their friends.

I didn’t know them, but I grieved for them, their families and for Oxford.

I was dropped off at the service and I told my ride I expected it would be over by 11 a.m.

It ended just after 10:30 so I started to walk while waiting for my ride. I did a lot of thinking on that walk. My thoughts took me to a place where I stood before a mirror and I wasn’t too thrilled with what I saw. 

The Monday after the crash, I turned 49 years old, something I had been lamenting and whining about for several days — maybe weeks, leading up to my birthday.

How selfish of me.

My granddaughter’s birthday was at noon on Saturday, just after the memorial service. She turned 6 and was quite proud of herself for it. She laughed, played with her friends and squealed with delight when she received her “big girl bike” and other presents. It was a good way to dry the tears from that morning, and a reminder of how truly blessed I was to be at the birthday party with my family.

Birthdays are a good thing, no matter the number. Each year we have to share with our loved ones is a true gift and not to be taken lightly.

While I miss the days my own children were babies and would love to have the energy I did at 20 (and a few less gray hairs) growing older is part of life, and life is the greatest gift our Creator has bestowed upon us.

I didn’t know the Fareses, the Perrys or the Pooles, but they have made an impact on my life and I will honor their memory by never regretting growing older again and to spend whatever time I have here on Earth making sure those around me know how much they mean to me, how much I love them, and how grateful I am for every second of every single day.

Next August, God willing, I will turn 50, and I will celebrate as my granddaughter celebrated turning 6 Saturday — with gratitude and squeals of delight.

alyssa schnugg is city editor of the EAGLE. Write to her at