The Gentleman’s Birthday

My husband’s birthday is here – I wasn’t sure he would make it this year.  He continues to decline, in bed, unable to move and breathe on his own, and sleeping about 19 hours a day.  What kind of celebration can you have?  As I typically say at birthdays “What are your goals for your next year?”  I don’t know how much time is left for Jim’s next year.

Coupled with a celebration is the idea of a birthday gift. I like the tradition of acknowledging the value of the person on his birthday, but what specific gift could I offer my husband on his birthday this year?   I have been trying over the past several months to give Jim a sense of how much he is loved and how much he inspires by creating a CD with his favorite songs and collecting stories about him from friends and family.  But still, a birthday should be specifically celebrated.  Always.  It is the day Jim came into the world.  It is the day that someone who influenced so much and so many should be acknowledged.  And so, with this in mind, I decided to focus on the one word that I have used so many times to describe Jim: gentleman – and the legacy that offers to our two children.

What does it mean to be a gentleman today?  The word seems old-fashioned in many ways, but also distinguished and honorable. When many of us think about a gentleman, we think about someone who holds open doors for people, who takes the time to say hello to everyone, and someone who may dress in a certain classic way.  We may also think about a person who is duty-bound, respectful, and someone who finds value in tradition.  This is Jim, but his gentleman ways are broader than this.

When I looked up the word in the dictionary, this is what I found: “a man who treats people in a proper and polite way.”  There are two things that strike me about this definition.  The first is the verb “treat” and the second is the adjective “proper”.   This is different from what I described above – related, but still different.  Notice the verb itself is treat.  Treat.  It is not a state of being as we often associate with the term gentleman, but rather an action.  To treat people a certain way.  My husband Jim has always been one to treat others with respect.  It didn’t matter who the person was – how old she was, how he dressed, what words came out of their mouths – Jim treated every person with whom he came in contact kindly.  You might argue, he treated everyone properly.  Because really when it comes down to it, treating others as you would like to be treated is the proper thing to do.  There really shouldn’t be anything special about this, but yet there is a special word “gentleman” that we associate with the act of treating others properly.

My suggestion of the term “gentleman” to describe my husband over the years has spanned from this proper treatment of all, but it was more than this too.  Jim not only treated the people with whom he interacted well, he went out of his way to engage people who were strangers.  He yearned for that connection.  He made sure that a person knew she was special.  He made sure that his little gestures had a big impact.  Jim’s gentleman ways also crossed into the aspiration category.  By living as a gentleman, he showed others what a life of honor looked like.  He showed us all what a better world we could create if only we all behaved more like gentlemen.

And so, as I am teaching our children, ages 5 and 7, the lessons that I know Jim would be teaching them if he could, I am reminding them about the big things “respect people, respect property” and I’m teaching them that small things matter too such as “hold the door open for everyone coming behind you” and “the man or the adult walks on the side of the sidewalk closest to the road” and “you shake a hand firm, smile, and always look people in the eyes.”  I hope this gift of passing along Jim’s gentleman ways to our children is one that Jim will know is the best gift he has given to us all.



7 responses to this post.

  1. God Bless your family.


  2. Posted by Antionen on May 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Thought it might be fun for the family to go over events that have happened on Jim’s birthday for a little trivia for the day!


  3. Posted by Susan on May 28, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    In my limited experience with Jim, this explains and describes him perfectly!


  4. Posted by Maurece Lewis on May 28, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I love everything about this. God bless you and your family.


  5. Posted by Peggy on May 29, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Right on the mark Erica — well said. xoxoxo


  6. Very nice post. a gentleman is one who truly understands the appearance of someone, is not what determines how they should be treated. A gentleman understands it is simply a part of him to treat others as he would like to be treated. Your husband sounds like quite the guy, so I hope this post of yours resonates. Many blessings for you guys


  7. Posted by Paul on June 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm



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