My uncle, Dr. Edmund Rhett Taylor, was born in March, 1916, and is married to my father’s sister Mary. He recently celebrated his 100th birthday in Columbia, South Carolina, surrounded by hundreds of family members and friends, honoring him for a life of service as a surgeon, patron of the arts, and environmental activist. I was unable to be there, but this is the letter I wrote a few days before his birthday.[FOLLOW-UP: Uncle Edmund died on June 23, 2017 at the age of 101! His obituary reflects what a remarkable man he was.]
If you’ve got family members or friends celebrating milestones, get out your pen and paper and let them know you’re thinking of them! This is such an easy and powerful connection tool, and these kinds of notes and letters are so often saved, re-read, and treasured. That’s a huge return on your small investment of time.
Photo credit: Dr. Edmund R. Taylor on his 100th birthday in March, 2016 by Ken Garrett, used with permission.
Dearest Uncle Edmund,
I recently made the happy discovery that there is a certain cachet to having a centenarian uncle, and I have been shamelessly name-dropping you and your remarkable milestone just to enjoy basking in the glow of your celebrity status. If—as rarely occurs—the person I’m telling about you does not seem suitably impressed, I am quick to whip out a recent photo of you and Bruce as you came off the tennis court. That always does the trick.
It’s accomplishment enough that you’ve managed to wake up every day for—yeegads!—100 years, but to those of us who know and love you, it is the way you’ve lived those 36,500 days that astonishes and inspires. I would still bet on you to win if the TV host of Jeopardy or It’s Academic called and asked you to compete on their game show.
We “youngsters” may have always been intimidated by your intellectual and physical vigor and challenges to us, but by gum, you set the bar high and made us all try a little harder than we might have otherwise. For that I will always be grateful.
So enjoy your special birthday, and when it all seems like too much noise and too much fuss, just look around at all those who’ve come from near and far—and think of all those who are not there but with you in spirit—and those whose lives you’ve saved or improved in your career—and the future generations who will benefit from your environmental work, your support of the arts and culture, and your generous philanthropy—then enjoy the moment, right before you exercise your centenarian prerogative to excuse yourself for a little nap. Even in that gesture, you will be modeling a life well-lived!
Johnny joins me in sending love and birthday wishes. We think you’re fabulous!
P.S. If 100 sounds like too large a number, remember it’s only 38° Celsius.