Birthday Wish

When well wishers call out the popular greeting “Happy Birthday”, it seems so very common that we cannot help feeling its overuse has become a hallmark of insincerity.

I find it unfortunate that for many the phrase now carries a tone of obligation, when in fact most people want nothing more than to communicate a true and genuine gratitude that you were born. How small must be our self esteem to doubt there are those who gladly declare us a welcome and valuable part of their lives?

birthday-candleWhen we were still new, there was a wonderful novelty to birthdays. Since a kid is so easily enthused by the simplest of things, a day dedicated to an appreciation of you alone is quite the best thing imaginable.

I know more and more grown ups who, as they get on in years, insist they want no fuss, or even attention paid, at the marking of a birthday. And yet, notice how very put out these same people become if that oh-so-unimportant day is forgotten?

It’s a comical dichotomy that possesses more than a few of my friends.

When co-workers and casual acquaintances have been given a community greeting card to sign, the accompanying inscription often comes across as disingenuous. For the many years that I have been on my own, I’ve suffered the sticky ineptitude of those who toss off a quick “Happy Birthday” in the manner of an afterthought. I see the obligatory sentiment forming in the air and cringe. And then it lands with the graceless thud of obligation.

And what’s happy about being an obligation? Small wonder that we’ve become so blasé about it all.

Of late, however, I’ve been rethinking my position on this one day of the year that celebrates me. If I choose to join those who are sincere — or lacking such fans, if I decide to celebrate that I am indeed a delightful and marvelous person — then where is the harm in such good feelings? Taking a moment to appreciate one’s self is no sin. In fact I’m beginning to think it’s healthy.

I remember the light in the eyes of those distant faces in my home movies, both young and old, marveling at the dance of fire on frosting, and I am taken back to my childhood. There were many birthdays throughout the year in my house where ten of us fought and loved and lived together under one roof.

I lament just a little that we have evolved into a populace so easily dismissive of sentiment. And whether there is sincerity behind the words or not, I cannot be reminded enough what a miracle it is to be in this world and of this world.

Life, after all, is but a flicker. And then we are gone. Shouldn’t we allow ourselves to sparkle just a bit while we’re here?

Along those lines, I have set down this observation:

(© 2013 by Michael J. Cahill)

A darkened room, a spark alights
A wick is set ablaze
And so begins the best of sights
On this, the best of days 

The flicker dances all aglow
Far merrier than any
Illuminating lightly so
The merriment of many 

How brief is but the tiny flame
That reaches high above
To those who’ve come to sing your name
And shower you with love 

And in your eyes it’s plain to see
The candle reaches high
As all are waiting patiently
For you to draw a sigh 

There in that breath lives well and strong
A dream with light imbued
From out that breath is born a song
That sings to be pursued 

And in that moment, fleet and deft
After the prayer is spoke
Do not believe that all that’s left
Is but a breath of smoke 

A birthday candle gladly burns
A life that shortly lives
For all the happiness it earns
Is from the joy it gives 

Snuffed out to make a wish come true
A prayer for things to be
Alive for but a precious few —
And for eternity





12 thoughts on “Birthday Wish

  1. Beautiful sentiment in the very well composed poem.

    I usually don’t tell people it’s my birthday unless it’s in a business where I get a complimentary something or other. Free is always a nice present. I’m not a big fan of getting a sombrero stuck on my head with a bunch of waitstaff surrounding me to sing a birthday song while the whole restaurant looks on. But if someone who should know it’s my birthday forgets to wish me a happy one, I might feel kind of let down.

    Hope all is well with you Michael. I need to catch up on a lot of your posts.

    Tossing It Out

  2. Micheal, your poetry and words gently uplifts my spirit and human condition. I hope you are well… I keep checking to see if you have written a new post, or if I have accidentally clicked the unfollow button with my clumsyness through the silly computer. I believe in quality over quantity and you are wonderful example for me to learn from.
    Thinking of your words, Tara 🙂

  3. I have nominated you for a blog award on my blog post tomorrow. Please go here for the rules and the blog badge.

    Take the award that is appropriate, or use both accordingly.

    Liebster – for 200 followers or less
    Very inspiring – for anyone of the nominees. Michael you definitely belong here. You’re writing is beautiful!


    • Sunni,

      You’re so sweet to nominate me. Three other people have nominated me for awards as well and I simply haven’t been able to indulge myself in these honors. While it’s flattering (and who doesn’t like to be flattered?), I wrestle with the question of whether I’m doing this to attract “hits” or whether I’m genuinely invested in the craft.

      I’d be a fool to discount the gaining of followers and others who would enjoy the writing and promote it to others — one cannot write in a vacuum. (Well, I suppose they could but it sucks in there and nobody can appreciated the effort, so what’s the point?)

      I guess it boils down to my simply not having the time to meet the requirements attached to it. That being said, I dearly appreciate your lovely and generous words of encouragement.

      So, for you Sunni, I will follow the rules and jump through the hoops. Awards are a form of appreciation, however much they may embarrass the recipient.

      Question: How the hell do I figure out whether a blogger has 200 followers? Or more? Or less?


      • H Michael,

        Yes awards are very time consuming. I actually don’t like getting them much because of the time involved, but it’s an honor to receive one, so I usually try to comply. You can’t always tell who has 200 followers as not all the blogs have the followers listed. This is a problem, so I nominated a few extra people and simply posted that they should take the award that applies, or use both depending on the number of followers. I got two of them at the same time, so I combined the two into one post. It was easier.

        I understand if you don’t want to accept it. Of course, you aren’t obligated to. But I have to say that you are more than deserving of an award. You put a lot into your posts and they are extremely well written. You always give people things to think about. I think you’re a natural born writer.


  4. I very much enjoyed reading this post. As a family we do try hard to make birthdays feel special even if sometimes it means sitting either side of an ocean chatting on Skype rather than sharing cake and candles together. However, sometimes life conspires against us and the day does not turn out as planned so I am rather a fan of the Lewis Carroll “unbirthday” notion and love to give or receive a gift on unbirthdays showing that a life is valued all year round.

  5. Beautiful Michael.

    We didn’t often celebrate birthdays growing up because, being farmer’s children, there was very little money. I remember a handful of birthday cakes for anyone in the house during my childhood years. My sister and I had birthdays a year and a day apart, so if we did get a cake, it was a celebration for both of us. That was okay because it didn’t happen often. i enjoy my birthdays today, even though I’m to the age that Most people stop counting.


    • I know that many children feel left out when it comes to celebrating the individual. And even though we may have felt slighted in our youth, there is no need to neglect deep-rooted need to be acknowledged and appreciated now. Brava to you for embracing in your advanced years the thing that makes you feel young at heart. I certainly celebrate who you are, if for no other reason than these delightful exchanges. Happy Birthday,… whenever it may be!

      And thank you again for reading.

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