It is not my story to tell. In truth, I wasn’t even there to witness the scene I am about to share. It was relayed to me not by the person who was a party to it, rather someone she shared it with who, in turn, shared it with me. This happened several days ago, but the degree to which it has stayed with me and tossed around in my head brings me to this, my need to share.
On a mid-week night, in a neighborhood restaurant one step above an Uno’s or Not Your Average Joe’s gathered three generations of a family to fete their mother/grandmother on the occasion of her birthday. They were a rowdy bunch, reveling in being together and marveling at the advanced age of the matriarch of the clan. They drew attention to themselves throughout the meal, talking a little bit too loud, laughing a smidge too hard and, from what I have heard, oblivious to the fact that they were not in the comfort of their own home but were annoying to their fellow diners.
As the meal progressed they became more rowdy and less aware of their surroundings. Other folks out for a (semi) nice meal flashed dirty looks and sighed heavily in hopes that they would send a message to the large group…to no avail. Resigned to the fact that they would have to endure their meal amid such commotion, they ignored them as best they could, trying, instead, to enjoy their own companions and meal.
The sounds of the table were soon interrupted with the arrival of a birthday cake, seemingly engulfed with the resultant flame of a billion candles, and the wait staff’s half-hearted rendition of the birthday song. And then it happened. No sooner had they reached the “to you” part of the song when the guest of honor dropped dead in the cake. Boom. Just like that. She didn’t pass out, or take a nap…no, she up and died. In the cake.
Now, I will cop to initially finding this simultaneously horrifying and hysterically funny. My mouth dropped open and my hand came up to cover it, as if to suppress my less than sympathetic response. My G-d…what a way to go!
Later that evening, I was out to dinner with friends at the Cheesecake Factory. Having just heard the story while driving to meet them, I shared it and they, too, responded with a mouth agape, hand-to-cover response and (slightly uncomfortable) laughter. Apparently, The Cheesecake Factory is an enormously popular birthday dinner spot as evidenced by the fact that as we dined, we counted no fewer than half a dozen renditions of the song which will forever be aborted at “to you” in my head. Each time the first notes rang out, our table grew silent as we anticipated a thud. Fortunately, there were none.
Ever since hearing this story and conjuring up a vivid image in my head, I have not been able to stop thinking about it. I find it to be so many things: horrifying, crazy, funny, unbelievable, frightening and awesome. But mostly awesome. I mean, really, think about it. Yeah, it is really shitty for the family (here’s hoping their dinner was comped) but what a great way to go for grandma. Surrounded by her family who were so caught up in the happiness and fun of the evening (well, the start of the evening, anyway) that they were utterly unaware of their surroundings. Everyone was, by all (well, most) accounts having a ball. The last thing she heard was “to you”, the last things she saw was a beautiful cake (in, no doubt, her favorite flavor), the last thing she felt was love and the last thing she did was play a starring role in a great story. Not so bad, actually.
So, on this, the eve of my birthday, I think of the nameless woman who left this world in a dramatic, but all around pretty cool way. Hers is a story I will continue to recall and, in all likelihood, share. I was not there for it. I did not experience it. But it will stay with me.
And, while I hope this is not the year I drop dead in my birthday cake, I can actually think of worse ways to go.