Life is short. Some days I forget that, and sheer panic rushes through my body over small meaningless things like figuring out what to make for dinner for the 900th time.
But one day that changed.
I can’t tell you the exact day. Perhaps it was a sweltering summer night while I watched fireflies play tag in the southern night sky, or maybe it was a cool Sunday morning while my husband and I were drinking coffee and dreaming of the future. My mind has forgotten the exact moment, but one day we learned that my father-in-law was dying.
Before my husband, Michael, and I had grasped the seriousness of the situation, when we were still shrouded in hope for a cure, Michael snapped this picture on an ordinary beautiful day. He captured a millisecond of our lives–an aging man walking toward the unknown, and his sidekick looking back with a knowing smile on his face. People always ask who my son Evan looks like and I automatically think his grandfather “Abu.” But now I see they look nothing alike. Now I realize it was never a physical resemblance–it was their joyful spirits that were the same.
Months after this picture was taken, my father-in-law lay in an ICU with tubes snaking through his body. That was the morning Evan bounded down the stairs, his cheeks pink with the enthusiasm only a three-year-old can muster at six in the morning. “Mom, Abu isn’t sick anymore. We played hide-and-seek last night!”
I thought of this photograph, my father-in-law looking toward the unknown and my Evan looking back at the world smiling. I quickly debated, but realized it wasn’t my place to tell my hopeful little boy that it was a dream. Who knew? Maybe it was real.
I wrapped my arms around him and pressed my face against his, grateful for his warmth, knowing it would be our life preserver in the weeks to come.
Two years later, I watch my son, his eyes dancing as he throws his head back to laugh at a silly knock-knock joke. His joy is so contagious that my daughter, “Miss Serious,” and I, “Ms. Busy,” join in on the nonsense. And in this moment, I think of my father-in-law whose smile and legacy are still here today.
My son was given his joy for life. My daughter received his humanitarian spirit. My husband possesses his fearlessness. While I don’t share any of his DNA, I’m forever indebted to the man who moved forward into the unknown, but stopped for a minute to teach me that life is short, joy is intentional, and it’s never too late for a quick game of hide-and-seek.
QUESTION: Which traits and characteristics from your fathers/grandfathers do you see in your children? What are the lessons you’ve learned from their lives and character that you want to pass down to your children?
CHALLENGE: Take a minute this Father’s Day to share a story with your children about the legacy that one of their grandfathers has left for them.
Image provided by Amy Fonseca.