Winner, Toastmasters District 58 (South Carolina) Speech Contest. This speech is special to me. It's one of the most meaningful messages I've heard. Partly because the speaker was a fellow club-member, friend, and competitor. And partly because I know it was genuine and heartfelt. Geneva has since passed but she and her message are unforgettable...
I would have burned the pink candle-
Sculpted like a rose-
Before it melted in storage.
So wrote American humorist Erma Bombeck
Shortly before her death
In a now famous newspaper column entitled-
If I Had My Life to Live Over.
Erma's words gripped my soul
As I was reminded of my own "pink candle" experience.
Two pink, beeswax candles came to me as a gift -
A gift made special because of the giver-
Mary Gaston Stollenwerck Jones-
Consummate southern belle
And wife of the founder of my Alma Mater.
I had never seen such exquisite candles-
They looked so delicate-so expensive.
After thanking her profusely-
I said what even you might have said-
Mrs. Jones, these are so beautiful!
I will have to save them for a special occasion.
Several years later
While going through my attic
I found those pink beeswax candles-
Crumbled like crackers for soup.
A former employer-
Wore beautiful clothes.
She would buy a new dress-
But let it hang in her closet
Sometimes a year or more
Before she would wear it .
When I bought this outfit
I tried to wear it home from the store!
If you complimented Lena
On a dress she was wearing for the first time
She would respond
Oh, this old thing?
When Lena died
They found several never-worn dresses-
Hanging in her closet.
This story circulates on the Internet from time to time
But it is true and illustrates my point perfectly.
Los Angeles Times columnist Ann Wells watched
As her brother-in-law
Opened a tissue-wrapped package
To reveal a gorgeous lady's slip.
One look at the price tag
Revealed this was no ordinary slip-
This was lingerie!
Jan bought this the first time we went to New York
At least eight or nine years ago.
She never wore it-
She was saving it for a special occasion.
Well - I guess this is the occasion.
He carefully laid the slip on the bed
Along with the other things
He was taking to the mortuary.
With tears streaming he cried-
Don't ever save anything for a special occasion.
Every day you're alive is a special occasion.
I should have burned those pink candles that very evening.
My adult children would be saying-
Mom, do you remember
When Mrs. Jones gave you those pink candles?
Their special glow made our hamburger seem like prime rib.
What a memory I would have created.
Why do we feel compelled
To save the beautiful things
That come into our lives?
How easy it is to value things and use people-
When the more worthy goal should be-
To value people and use things.
Even financial guru Suze Orman says
At Sunday dinner
I served fresh strawberries-
Mounded with whipped cream-
In my antique, etched-crystal dessert dishes
To my two-year-old granddaughter.
Her mother spontaneously observed
Your grandmother must love you an awful lot
To let you eat from her special crystal.
And my heart resounded-YES!
That is exactly the message
I wanted my granddaughter to understand.
I searched years for beeswax candles
Pink ones specifically
They are not easy to find.
As candles go
Beeswax candles are quite expensive.
But YOU deserve my very best.
Today we celebrate achievement.
Each of us earned the privilege of speaking on this stage.
Therefore, in honor of my worthy competitors-
And in celebration of dreams realized-
Let's burn the pink candle!
[Lights a pink candle.]
Copyright © 2021 James Anderson. Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved.
Brian Woolf's comments: This was the speech Geneva planned to deliver at that year's WCPS, if she has won her Semifinal. Unfortunately, that dream did not materialize. But fortunately, we now share Geneva's simple message with its powerful point: Don't ever save anything for a special occasion - for every day you're alive is a special occasion.