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3,403 Candles

A Life Well-Lived


Snuggled in my robe,

I kick back my glass of water,

and lean toward the window,

wondering what the day will bring.

The sun twinkles on the wet fence posts

and the grackles hastily pick at the seed.


What day is it?

That’s right…. May 3rd

What would have been your 84th birthday.

Happy birthday,

my sweet, sweet Mother.


I open the cabinet,

and see an open box of birthday candles.

Tips charred down a bit,

wax curling over;

evidence of songs sung and happier days.

I begin to think of all the candles you blew out in your lifetime.

and add them up.

3,403


Since the day you left,

The time with you has always felt too short.

But as I scroll down

this excel column,

it helps me see in a visual way,

How many years, 82 years really is.


I smile imagining you as

an infant “fresh from God”

as Gram used to say…

with 82 birthdays

and all the candles that lay ahead of you…


As a toddler with frosting smeared

on your smiley cheeks

around a table with your brothers serenading you,

as a freckled-face teenager falling in love

for the first time,

as a twenty-something

just home from modeling school,

as a young mother,

with five under nine-years-old,

The many years of waking up

on your birthday

in a new home,

wondering what the next year would bring,

and for so many adult years

celebrating the best we could,

on the phone from a distance,

as each of your five

gathered our families to sing to you.


How I wish I could pick up the phone this morning,

as I always did

And launch into a hearty “Happy Birthday” song

before you could even

get in another word.


But instead,

I will stop,

Fingers resting on the keys,

By myself in this polka dot robe,

And sing to you.

Happy birthday, Mom.


I will think of you gathered

with your brother and parents,

Padre Pio, Jane Kendall, and God himself,

celebrating a life well-lived.

3403 candles

to be grateful for.







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