When you arrive at a new threshold of the next year of your life unfolding, one of the traditions is to blow out the candles, to be lit up by what’s past and then to make a wish in that moment of darkness. The birth day is just that – a promise in darkness – coming into light – recurring each year. It is heralded by a long wait, labour pains of another while you arrive through an opening often helped by others supporting your mother. We give this moment a special place in our year, it defines us as a tribe on the zodiac, a season, a destiny. Everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born according to David Whyte.
On the eve of birth, an experience I have had more than once, the physicality or being prised open to allow new life to come forth, is pain with breath and blood eventually settling into a rhythm and a quickening that ends whether we welcome the arrival or not. And so on this eve, as my love would have been 60 in the morn, I think of his mother labouring and his arrival being met with a little disappointment that their fourth child was another boy – she had longed for a girl for more than the nine months, in fact years and years. He. Arrived. Already not meeting expectations, wiped away quickly, but the story remained in the family narrative. How many stories do we have hanging on us, even before we have started to make our own, even before our birth-day?
Unfolding into a new year, the old one is not left behind, it oozes in and has already left a fingerprint, forecasts and predictions are enabling decisions, the future is already in the diary. Not all birthdays are welcomed. There are the times with the new year arriving is heralding a beginning or an ending of a time that is not yet over or not yet ready to commence.
On this eve of his birthday, one he can no longer celebrate, one that for others arriving at this junction would be one to celebrate a harvest, welcome in wisdom, drive home the possibility of eldership, he is not. He is not here for his appointment with candles and cake. We will gather and remember his lasting impact that will go long and deep, we will be grateful he was born and gifted us with his essential self. We will hold the space for cake and candles and my promise to tomorrow is to mark birth-days with respect from how they came to be where heaven and earth joined in a woman’s body and appeared in the shape of a child.
He was born in the perfect season for the life he lived, ordained by an Advent birth. Living long enough to embrace the next generation.
To be more child-like is one of the great invitations and birth-days are an annual reminder to enter the new year of our life with the same bewilderment and optimism of those first breaths.