I don't often celebrate my birthday but more than once a year. And it's often done quietly, with just my immediate family and sometimes one or two friends.
I never liked the idea of getting old. And I still don't like the idea of getting older and older. Yet, it's something I seem to do around this time of year.
I was born in the middle of the night. I came quickly. My dad had less than 30 minutes (27 to be exact) to get my mother to the hospital after she went to the bathroom and almost dropped me in the toilet.
Somewhere between 1248 Jackson Road and Morton Plant Hospital my father pulled his fairly new Volkswagen Beetle to the side of the road because I wanted out.
"I'm going to deliver the baby," my dad replied. After all, he as a pediatrician and had delivered hundreds of babies in his fairly young practice. It was there in the stillness of the night a voice yelled out into the darkness, "The hell you are. You're wearing a new shirt."
Summoning all the wisdom of the ages, my father closed the door to the Beetle, and drove away towards Morton Plant Hospital where I was pretty popping out by the time my mom was placed on the gurney. My dad's shirt remained crisp and clean for the remainder of the night. Knowing him, that was as long as it would.
I like to think this experience is what made me to be who I am. Although, I'm not so sure. But one can pretend that the reason I love jumping into things so quickly is because I couldn't wait to give this thing called life a try. Now, I can say with most certainty, I am glad I did.
I've been told a lot that my dad's only regret in life is that he didn't get to deliver one of his children. As he often reminds me, "Never argue with the woman who is giving birth to your children."
I don't often celebrate my birthday, but today I can truly say, I am forever grateful for my birth.
The reason I am writing this today is because I read something from Henri Nouwen who helped me to better understand birthdays, and the reason we ought to celebrate them.
He wrote, “Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone: “Thank you for being you.” Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday we do not say: “Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.” No, we say: “Thank you for being born and being among us. On birthdays we celebrate the present. We do not complain about what happened or speculate about what will happen, but we lift someone up and let everyone say: “We love you.”
To whoever is reading this post, how lucky you are to be doing so. It means you’re alive. It means someone (for better or worse) felt you were important enough to bring into the world so we could celebrate you. As another wise man once wrote, "I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you always in my prayers" (Eph. 1:16).
Even if it now takes more than three attempts to blow out all the candles – I am glad to be here too. Giving thanks that my heart has not given out.
Nouwen, Henri J.M. You are the Beloved. (New York: Convergent, 2017)