“Thinking can make it so” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

May Yousif by © Camila Gargantini

“It wasn’t until towards the end of the session with May that I realized how important that moment was for her. She told me about losing her mother and about the book she was holding during the session. Having lost my mother at the age of 16, I could relate to her more deeply than I expected and when she told me that that day was the actual anniversary of her mother’s death, everything came together for me. I am so grateful she used this opportunity as one more way to acknowledge that person that was so important in her life and to help her heal from such life changing loss.” – Camila G

Image by © Camila Gargantini

An Interview with May

Q. What is the best memory you have from a previous birthday?

A. I was turning 16 and my birthday happened to fall on a day off school. I had planned to have all my best girlfriends over at my house where we could play games and hang out all day. My mom prepped snacks and I decorated, I think I even got a pinata for the occasion. I had told all my friends to be there for noon but by the time 12:30pm rolled around, not one of my friends had shown up or called to say they were running late. I was so upset, I thought I had been ditched, which at 16 feels like the world is ending. An hour later, one of my friends finally showed up and told me that everyone had slept in and suggested we go wake up my best friend who lived a few houses down the road. Still upset and a bit embarrassed, I reluctantly agreed, I rang the door bell and next thing I knew all my friends were jumping out at me yelling “SURPRISE”! They were all wearing shirts with my face on it, running around throwing confetti, yelling “we got you”! We spent the day running around the city doing all these extraordinary activities that they spent weeks planning. It was the most special day with girls that I am still proud to call my best friends today.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. My mom passed away shortly before I turned 19 and although my friends and family did everything they could to celebrate me, I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming void.

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that surprised you most?

A. That same 19th birthday my older brother gave me this book called “Motherless Daughters”. I was pretty upset receiving it. At the time it seemed like such an insensitive, thoughtless gift. I cried sad tears when I opened it. It wasn’t until a couple months later, when I started to read it, that I understood why my brother had given it to me. It told stories of women all over the world, at every age explaining how and when they lost their mothers. It gave me so much comfort which is a gift you cannot put a price on. To this day, eight years later, it remains one of my most cherished possessions.

Q. Is there a food or dish that you insist on eating on your birthday?

A. Guys, CAKE! My family strongly believes that you must cut and eat cake on your birthday to have a prosperous year. I was once in charge of buying the cake for my brothers birthday but got a pie instead. My family to this day does not let me live that down.

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. This one is tough. My obvious answer would be that having my family around is the most important thing to me but I’ve been blessed with a family that I see all the time, who understand the importance of being there for one another.

Q. Do you have any traditions or thing you always do to celebrate a birthday? What is it?

A. Since being blessed with three nieces and one nephew in the past three years, I always make sure they are around to help me blow out my candles.