By Dr. Nell Mohney
Families of the 21st century are under stress. We have more and more one-parent families, and that one parent has more responsibility than any one person should have. In two-parent families, both spouses often work outside the home, most out of necessity. There is less and less quality family time. In this fast-paced and chaotic time, it seems to me families especially need two things: strong faith to anchor them and the element of surprise to keep the family lively.
These surprises can be small and given throughout the year to bring encouragement to each family member. Then, there is a big surprise when certain milestones have occurred. The special one in our family happened this year on July 3. Many of you know my daughter-in-law, Jackie Mohney, has had a full year of fighting a recurrence of breast cancer. Despite an excellent surgeon and oncologist, it has been a difficult year.
Her treatments have ranged from surgery to two rounds of chemotherapy to radiation with the resultant side effects. Yet, Jackie has gone through all these with bravery and determination. She is one of the few people I know who looks good in a wig. She has been an inspiration to us all.
To celebrate this, her husband and children planned a surprise birthday party. For 10 years, Ralph and Jackie have invited members of their small groups at church to come to their lake house for a cookout and lake activities on July 3.
Jackie suspected nothing when their usual invitations went out. The following day, another invitation went out from Ralph, their daughter, Ellen, and her husband, Ryan Gray, and Wes Mohney, saying it was to be a surprise birthday party to celebrate Jackie's life. On July 3, the only thing left to do was to get Jackie out of the house 30 minutes before guests arrived so Wes and his friend, Honor Hostetler, could put up the birthday banner they had created and inflate the balloons around the pool area.
Ellen got Jackie out of the house by asking her to accompany Ellen and her 11-month-old son, Jackson, to pick up a prescription for Jackson. Jackie would do anything for her grandson, so it took no persuasion to get her to go. When they returned, all 52 of us were in the great room, saying, "Surprise! Happy birthday, Jackie." Obviously, she was totally and delightfully surprised.
Ryan and Ellen had planned games around the pool that were such fun that many of us didn't want to stop for dinner. The blessing was given by their good friend, Steve Frost, and his wife, Lisa, gave a beautiful tribute to Jackie. After a barbecue dinner, including a huge birthday cake, toasts were given that made us laugh and cry and must have made Jackie feel 10 feet tall.
The finale was a large fireworks display conducted by Wes Mohney. It was a magical evening with memories to last a lifetime.
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at nellwmohney @comcast.net.