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?
When 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:
THE LIFE OF A BIRTHDAY CANDLE
(© 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