Updated: Dec 29, 2020
I came across this Peanuts cartoon the other day; it’s funny how a cartoon can really make you think about life. I can honestly say that if I had seen this six months ago, I don't think I would have given it a second thought. I've always tried to live my life in a way that I could look back and say I did it ‘my way’ and that I lived a full life. On March 1st of this year my perspective changed a little. It was the day that Kaitlin and I had prayed for endlessly, one that we had an excited-anxiety about. See, it was the day of our home study for a hopeful adoption. We had looked so forward to this day, but also had some trepidation because it’s never easy to have a stranger come talk to you about whether or not you would be suitable to adopt and look through your house to determine space and safety.
Adoption was something Kaitlin and I had both talked about since we dated in college. After several setbacks and roadblocks (Kaitlin and I will blog about this and the process as we continue the journey), we felt we had finally made progress and started seeing the path open up to make it happen. I woke up this morning with an uneasy feeling; I told Kaitlin that I didn't think I was anxious at all about the home study but I just didn't feel quite right. This post though isn't about the home study or even the adoption, it's about a day that started with such joy and optimism about bringing another child into our home, to one ending with so much grief. This was the day I lost my father.
I received a call from my mom about halfway through the home study, looking back it was almost surreal. I ignored the call (we talk most days and figured it was just that call)--she immediately called back and that's when I knew something wasn't right. She told me that she found my dad collapsed in their bedroom. We live just a few minutes from my parent’s house so I left immediately; the paramedics beat me there by a couple minutes. I loaded up my mom and we headed to the ER as quickly as we could. Later we would find out dad had a devastating stroke. Medical personnel couldn't tell us much more than that, but we knew what the outcome likely was by the doctor’s kind words. They transferred him to a larger facility, about 45 minutes away, so a neurologist could confirm that he wouldn't survive. My father went to be with the Lord around four o'clock that afternoon. Those six hours were a blur but at the same time I remember certain moments with such clarity: I don't think I'll ever forget them. I held my father’s hand as they took him off of the machines that were keeping him alive. Looking back, it must have been the first time I'd held his hand in nearly thirty years. I watched him take his last breath. That day was the first time in the better part of decade that both of my sisters, my mom, dad, and niece were in the same room together. It's easy to blame life for getting in the way of family, we all go out on our own and make our own decisions, but it's sad when it takes death to bring us together.
My dad was 66, an age that when I was a kid seemed pretty ancient. Now that I'm in my thirties, it doesn't seem that old at all. He worked a very demanding job for 35 years so that we could be comfortable, so I could go to college, and my mom could be a homemaker. It was a job I know he didn't love, he probably would have said he hated it, but he did it anyway for us. He retired from that job in November of 2016, and less than a year and a half later, he was gone.
Last November we welcomed our third child and first son Nash Macrae (we call him Mac) into the world. I was 33, the same age my dad was when I was born. Things like that start to make you think about life and what you've done, what you are doing now, and what you still long to do. My paternal grandfather died when my dad was just 17, something I think he carried with him the rest of his life. I'm thankful to have had him for the time that I did.
As I've gone through the last couple months, I've spent much time reflecting on life and our purpose here. I read once that the most important thing on your tombstone is the dash, which is what it's all about: what you did between those two dates. I've really had to think about where I am and what I'm doing. I used to think, not too long ago, that Kaitlin and I have worked hard to create a life that we could look back and say "we lived it full,” but death has a funny way of making you question things. When you become parents no one hands you an instruction manual or tells you what to do. My dad gave me everything he could, everything he had, and I'm not sure I understood that until he was gone. There were times that I selfishly needed more from him. Looking back, I realize he did it the best he could, with all he had and I wish I had told him thank you for that. His death made me wonder what my kids think of me. What will they say about me when I'm gone? I always have said that if you prioritize your life in which you serve God, family, and then work, the rest will always fall into place. Have I always put my family before work, or God before my family? It's easy to say yes, but the reality of building businesses is that I'd probably be lying to myself if I said I always have. We have a choice how we live our lives. It may not always seem like it, but we control our situations and what we do. After my dad passed, I decided that I wouldn't make excuses about how I lived my life.
There are only a handful of days in our lives that we get to experience the highs of childbirth or marriage, and the lows of losing our loved ones. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we take flowers to place on the graves of our lost loved ones…we use these days to remember the monumental days we've had in our lives. I'm here to say though, the way you live it full is to embrace every day--to live every day intentionally. To live it full is to purposefully make that call you've been meaning to make to your mom, sister, or friend; to stop in a world of chaos and hug your wife or hold her hand even if only for a moment; its putting your phone down, looking your child in the eyes, and having a meaningful conversation about their day; it's watching the sunrise instead of the news; it's taking a family walk instead of Facebook time; it's sitting down to eat as family. To really live it full, we must start seeing all little things in life that we would miss if we weren't looking. Moments we hold dear aren't just the big days, they are so many days in between. The day we are born and the day we die are monumental days, but what you do in between those days is what matters. I'm choosing to live it full.