Birthdays glow. It’s silly, really. Of course we had to get here through the passage of a particular day in time, at a particular moment. For me it was 9:20 a.m. in a Lubbock hospital back in 1959, born to a young couple with a daughter and an uncertain future. A half-century and more passes: the father dies, the mother finds her way among church and friends, the daughter’s dreams come sort of true and then they don’t, but then, how is that so different than the rest of us? That calendar day approaches again, that day where we remember that we got here at a particular time, and that at least a few people not only noticed that we were born, but were actually glad it happened.
“Happy birthday.” Funny little sentiment, that, but so wonderful to hear. I have no idea why. A wish that the day of remembering your beginning–no particulars, just that you began–be happy, joyful, that the activities of that day be symbolic of something innately divine and grand. “You were given life all those years ago. I hope you’re happy about that, and that all the moments of this day stand as small symbols of the overall happiness of your life.” Something like that is hidden in that little phrase, “Happy Birthday.”
For me, the day glows. May 4 sounds different to my ear than any other date. So do the days marking the births of my family–my wife, my children, my mother, my sister, even my dead father. And the dates of other beginnings and endings, anniversaries and moments of death, markers of life’s rhythms, the comings and goings of the simple and the profound. I don’t know, maybe all days glow…but May 4 is just different. It’s not that I deliberately try to make it glow…it simply does. And most years, that glowing is irrelevant, it’s just a sense of awareness, as if the sun has a bit more shine, the rain a bit more coolness, a touch a bit more comfort.
For some, I know, there’s no glow at all. And it seems selfish and pompous to write that my birthday glows. “Rub it in,” I hear somewhere out there, a tone bitter and ugly from someone whose sour life is destroying them. And its not their fault, not really…there are million legitimate sufferings to destroy any given day. “Happy Birthday” can seem cruel, a bitter joke in the mouth of the naive and immature. But just to be clear, the glow of the day has nothing to do with gifts or even the wishes of friends. The day glows long before anything happens, any parties get planned, or any cakes get baked and candled.
I guess its just another way my amazement at things plays out. I’m here. You’re here. We’re here. The most normal thing in the world. But I can barely take it in. The human arrival was no given, and there are those I will love with all my heart who have not yet been conceived, neither in body or in the mind of God. How lucky we are to have at least a shot at life, at love, at experience, at giving. Why it hurts like hell I don’t know. Why the ache, why the evil, why the enemy, why the need for rescue…I don’t know.
But I for one am thankful. Gratitude again, perhaps naive, perhaps not taking suffering into account nearly enough, but even so, I am grateful. For my birth, which I had nothing to do with, and for all my life, which I have little to do with still, except that portion that God trusts me with, for better or worse. And for all of you who stopped by to say Happy Birthday (face-to-face, notes, Facebook, however you went about it), all of you from so many different parts of my life, from different eras of the last 53 years, I can only say that I am grateful for how all our paths have crossed, and for the way those weavings have perhaps brought a bit more glow to all of us.
We’re still in Easter season. Deep into the celebration of birth and rebirth, and I’m going to count these days not just as the one birthday of last week, but why not have a birthday season? I’ll certainly celebrate tomorrow, because it’s the day Anjie and I started our journey together 31 years ago.
This year, when it rolls around, I hope your birthday glows, and I hope you party for a whole season.
How amazing that we’re here….