The Phantom Finish Line

09 September 2016   

I admit it – I love my birthday. Really, who doesn’t?  Between the cake, the ice cream, the balloons and the good wishes, I never met a birthday I didn’t like. I can’t understand how so many people play it cool, “Oh, it’s my birthday? That old thing? I barely noticed. I’m too old for birthdays.” In the meantime, I’m running up and down the block with a pointy hat on each ear, blowing into a cardboard horn, while holding a Bic candle-lighter high above my head, like a torch, and singing, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!” between horn honks. To each his own. 

This year, however, the vibe is a little bit different. Not to worry, I’ll still be doing a little jig that moment I wake up and remember that it is, indeed, the anniversary of my birth, but this year, I will be 43, and that is as old as my mom ever got to be. Because of that, ever since then, somewhere deep inside, there has been an imaginary finish line associated with that number, which added fuel to an already smoldering sense of urgency when it came to living. I often considered the possibility that, just like Cinderella’s dance with the prince was suddenly interrupted by the harsh sound of the clock striking 12, for me, if I was lucky enough to get that far in the first place, the magic of this lifetime would surely end abruptly when the 43rd candle was added to the cake. 


If that’s the case, move it! …Get that old lady with the wand, and hand me a pumpkin – they’re having a ball down the street, and I need a ride… yesterday! 

What’s surprising is that, for as long as it has existed, the looming finish line has actually been a blessing, much more than a burden of any sort. It served as a constant reminder of the swiftness of our time on earth, and the importance of living, loving, laughing, learning, working, and serving with fervor.  It pushed me through the muck every time I found myself in quicksand, forcing me to take chances that I might otherwise have put off until it was too late; likewise, it insisted that I stop and smell the roses with my family and friends, while I have them here with me. 

As I approach 43 tomorrow, I’m inevitably reminded of my mom, her last birthday cake and the frailty of this life. Nonetheless, although I can never take a single breath for granted, I find myself, not at the end of the line, as, however irrationally,  I anxiously anticipated all these years; rather, I’m standing on the brink of all new adventures, including the start of my  seminary education.  It seems that there’s still work for me to do, and another leg left in the race. 

Every day of my life, the good and bad, has been a gift, and every day after tomorrow, come what may, in light of God’s gracious love and promise, the happily ever after. 


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