“We do not remember days, we remember moments” – Cesare Pavese
In the last two months I’ve been to two funerals and one memorial for people who I knew as family and good friends. One thing about death is you never get use to it no matter how prepared you may be. It is certainly a part of the life-cycle that we all must face at some point, whether we are ready or not. As I joined in and listened to the families and friends gather in the celebration of life for how these three individuals lived while on the earth, I begin to take note of my own life and what I’m doing with the time I have remaining to live. Death has an uncanny way of causing us to reflect on life and our inevitable demise, and as we all know the time we have left does not with a guarantee. So what do we do with the time that we have remaining to live and how do the ones that witness our lives in action actually define if we have lived at all once we are gone?
An older gentleman that I respect once told me, “It’s all about the dash in the middle Henry”. In other words, we get an undetermined start date and an undetermined end date, but what we do in between (the dash) is very much determined by you and I. Although I pretty much understood this intellectually the moment he said it to me, I really didn’t grasp it within my spirit for many years later. And even at this very moment I’ve been thrust into circumstances that allow me to learn even more regarding the topic. What is your life? I ask this question, not to draw the common conclusion about purpose (that’s another post), but this time I am curious about how we define when we truly began to live.
Chronologically, we all have a date that we were born, but when did you truly begin to live your life meaningfully, with moments that reflected that meaning?
What particular events capture significant moments for you that depict real living?
For some of us we may reflect on getting married, having our first child or facing a fear head-on for the very first time. Although each of these life events are significant, if we’re not careful we may still miss the moment. Acknowledge these events and others that you choose as only Headings. It is what transpires following these life events, specifically because of them is what gives us the opportunities to truly live. The choice still however remains up to us, whether we learn, grow and experience life as it could be. Just because we inherit the title of husband, father, wife, mother or best friend does not constitute that we will embrace the role or grow from it in a meaningful way. If we’re not careful or thoughtful, we will live these roles seemingly robotically, only fulfilling the expected functions day in and day out as the years whiz by. Sadly, many people live their lives in this manner, missing out on opportunities to connect with others, truly learn from poor decision-making or to grow with contentment and gratefulness.
I recently spoke to a person that has a best friend who just experienced a tragic break up. She was scheduled to begin medical school and now had second thoughts about attending due to the recent demise of her relationship. Not only did this person comfort her best friend with kind words, but she took off of work and met her at the school to help her establish this new life she was about to embark on. I was amazed at the sacrifice she was willing make to be there for her friend. When I think of moments that others will reflect on about “the dash” in her life, it is quite clear that this will always be a defining moment in that person’s life. What is her life as a friend? The answer is crystal clear. She was present.
As I reflect on my life, I was a husband twice, a father to two daughters and a son, the son of my parents, a brother to three sisters and a best friend to a few awesome people. In these roles I have accomplished, failed, learned, disappointed, helped, guided, mis-directed, disciplined, failed some more and grown tremendously. In times past I would typically look at these roles in the light of failures or successes, depending the circumstance and measure my worth accordingly. However today I recognize my worth is not merely tied to how well I performed or not, but what I did with the moments I had the opportunities to reflect, grow, forgive and start over. And although these moments represented the most difficult times that I have ever experienced in my life, they are equally the most significant times of my growth. The type of growth that does not seek to share mere words so that others will be impressed by what I have learned, but more importantly expose what I am/was ignorant to.
I have found it is in these times that “the moments” that create indelible marks on the hearts of the ones we love and that see us are scribed and answer the question, What is your life?
I have always told my children that when someone speaks about me publicly, I want them to be able to identify with the man being spoken of. I never want them to say, “Who is that guy, we don’t know him.” I want them to know I am not perfect, but I am authentic. I want them to have a front row seat to the father and man who I am and claim to be. This seat comes with close captions of ugliness as well as goodness, but nonetheless real.
At the end of the day, what really matters? Who I claim to be or who I am? Several years ago who I claimed to be probably mattered more to me. I felt I lived up to the expectations of others mostly, yet it was a constant effort of performing, failing and weariness. I often felt defeated, empty and frequently unfulfilled. Today I live my life unafraid to pause, think and reflect on my given circumstances. I first commit to myself and give my best to others one day at time. I give with intention and say “no” with the same intention. I refuse to harbor guilt or allow others to deposit their negative, unresolved emotions on me. I keep it moving. I keep it positive.
So what will others say about your life? Will they have to make up nice stories to fill in for the tragic events that you caused or created and never took responsibility for? Or will they recognize that despite the imperfect life you lived, there was a man or woman who captured dignity along the way by the moments created from your choice to consider what matters is how you lived your life, or what you did in the dash.