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Sunday, November 1, 2015

To Die on your birthday: what does it mean?

Today is November 1st, All Saint's Day in Spain. It's the day when families visit their loved one's who have gone on before them. When I first came to Spain I was unaware of the tradition. I found myself passing a major cemetary on this day, which was overrun with people. I exclaimed, "Wow! Who died?" Well, everybody.

With this date approaching, the thought ocurred to me that surely there must be a record of people who actually died on their birthdays. I wondered whether such an occurrance would be rare or not, so I went on Google to look for answers.

Google has recorded well-known people who inadvertently combined their birthday with their death day. At the top of the list we find William Shakespeare. He was born on April 23, 1564 and died on April 23, 1616. The problem is that there is some doubt about his birthday, but generally it is accepted. Ingrid Bergman, the actress, also has that distinction, having been born in Sweden on August 29, 1915, and died the same month and day, in 1982.

We all have a one in 365 chance of ending our lives on our birthday. Apparently, statistically, once we cross over the age 65 threshold the likelihood of dying on our birthday grows increasingly with each passing year. There are heart attacks and strokes possibly waiting for us, or just simple things like falling down. And then, there are suicides, as many people despair with advancing age and choose to end their lives on their birthdays.

Perhaps the most outstanding person to hold this distinction was Astrid Zachrison of Sweden who lived to a splendid age of 113 years exactly. She was born on May 15th, 1895 and passed away in 2008 while celebrating yet another milestone. There is something very poetic about that, but also a word of warning: don't overdue the celebrating.

I found a long list of people on Google, and these were just the well-known ones, so I suppose in actual fact it happens quite a lot. There are also several examples of people who died on their birthdays, but were revived. One woman has died several times over her lifetime, but was always revived, including one time she sprang back to life just minutes before being opened up for an autopsy. She is still alive today.

What does it mean?  In the Jewish faith The Talmud teaches that Moses died on his 120th birthday, so this has meaning to Jews, but under the Catholic faith no particular significance is given.

Call me an old romantic, however in my opinion it closes the circle perfectly, leaving nothing left over or undone. It seems to suggest that such was a perfect life that was lived and ended with precision. No wonder there were two people from Sweden in my examples. Also, no wonder Sweden is the country that produces my beloved, precision-made Volvo!

Copyright (c) 2015  Eugene Carmichael