When I Blow Out My Candles

I watch the flicker of the light for a few minutes while everyone sings. It’s so mesmerizing, I can’t hear anything around me other than the sound of my own breath. I stare at the fire as it dances playfully, almost taunting me as it reminds me that another year has passed. I close my eyes for a few seconds before I inhale and blow out my candles. My first thought: how many times I felt like the span of my life was as fleeting as the length of time a candle stays lit. Doctors told me I wouldn’t make it this far. Others reminded me time and again how close and how many times I was near death; it was so frequent, sometimes, I felt like I was on borrowed time.

My second thought is often about how I proved my numerous physicians wrong. I have valiantly faced every obstacle placed before me. I’ve literally learned to walk, talk, see and hear again as an adult thanks to a body ravaged by an autoimmune condition.

Once I clear my mind, I think about what I should wish for. I suppose, my friends, family and even strangers would guess I’d ask for better health but I never do; although I often hope for greater gap between my flare ups and hospital visits. I don’t ask for a longer life either but I do end my wish by thanking God for the time I’ve had. Sure, I should probably ask for more sales for my books so I can pay medical bills, take a vacation or just give myself some relief. But, I don’t do that either. I’m just grateful that I’ve sold enough copies to know someone other than people who know me own my work.

No, actually, when I blow out my candles I make the same wish every year. I’m not superstitious so I can share my real request. My wish is simple; it’s that I am remembered for making a difference.

I’ve long suspected I may not outlive my loved parents, siblings or most of my friends. I’ve only prayed that I live as long as I can, as well as I can and love as deeply as I can. And, I pray that I am the best daughter, sister, aunt, friend, co-worker, fiancée, and human beings I can. Of course, I do occasionally fall short. Still, I try to continue to better at all roles.

So, in the same spirit in which I live my life, I don’t just hurl my wish into the universe and wait for it to be fulfilled. I work hard to create memories, to volunteer my time, to be there for loved ones and to craft stories that tell my life story. I don’t do it because I think I’m particularly remarkable but I know my journey to being at peace with my mortality, my illness and my faith are all things that may help someone else facing similar circumstances.

On Dec. 17, when I go to blow out my candles again I will again re-examine my master to do list, which contains all the things I want to accomplish in this life before I go. I know I’ll be able to check off a few more things. Then, I’ll stare at the delicate flames, close my eyes, say thank you for all that I have and wish one more time that someone, anyone, will remember I was here and feel my loss because I made a difference.

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