Louis loved tradition and every year was a ritual. Louis savored every birthday as it gave him the perfect opportunity to wish. To hope. To dream. At every birthday in memory, a crowd gathered around a cake ablaze with candles and as the singing halted and the candles melted impatiently, Louis closed his eyes. He smiled, leaned back in his chair with his hands still on the table and sighed deeply. And then smiled again as he opened his eyes as if he saw the world anew and the loved ones surrounding him clasped their hands together gladly and waited eagerly for him to share his wish.
But they would not be satisfied because he replied simply, “If I told you my wish, it wouldn’t come true.”
And every year, he’d lean back and sigh.
And they all feigned frustration but lifetimes of experience reminded them that he was doing what was best. Not for him, but for all.
Louis promised everyone though, “One day, I’ll share my wish. When I know it’s safe to do so. When I know it can’t be broken. I promise.”
Time after time, he’d lean back and sigh.
Year after year, it remained the same tradition and in spite of the growing anticipation and even with changing guests, his birthdays were a bright day for all because everyone present was reminded to make the most of the moment and to savor their time together.
“Live your best life immediately” Louis would say, inspired by Seneca, “Tomorrow is a lie told by fools.”
Without forewarning, the day finally came that Louis would share his wish. As everyone gathered around the radiant cake set on the folding table in the backyard, Louis smiled. And with his hands on the table, he leaned back and closed his eyes. But this time, words replaced the sigh.
With his eyes closed and his head leaned slightly back, he said softly, “I have lived the life I dreamed. I have known poverty and I have known wealth and while I prefer wealth, I often think I was happier being poor… striving to do better. I have known loneliness and I have been surrounded by friends and while I prefer not to be lonely, the solitude gave me time to think clearly. I’ve had good luck and bad luck and while I’d prefer good luck, bad luck never lasted too long and that reminded me that good luck never did either. I could not be happier.”
At that pause, someone in the crowd spoke up eagerly, “But the wish! What’s your wish!?”
Louis laughed and the group fell silent. He looked around carefully at the crowd surrounding him. Making eye contact with each of them and recollecting all the precious moments they shared. Kairos time. Moments that seemed to last a lifetime which he revisited recurrently through his life.
At last, he returned his gaze to the young mother who asked the question and smiled lovingly at her.
“This.”He whispered. “My only wish is this. This. More of this…”