Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Bigger Picture: A life lived in snapshots

G. bounded through the yard with a huge stick a few days ago and excitedly announced, "I'm ready to go fishing with my Papa Brian!"

I stood there, breathless, eyes filling with tears, speechless under the hot sun.

"Just breathe," I mumbled under my breath. "It will pass. Lord, give me words; give me strength."

I stood there long enough, silent enough for G. to notice I was no longer playing along in our backyard, imaginary fishing adventure. He asked, concerned, what was wrong.

Well, a lot, actually.

My dad repeatedly had promised 2.5 year old G. they would take a fishing trip to one of the nearby lakes this summer. G. never forgets these types of promises. Couple that with his inability to comprehend death and you've got a recipe for a distraught preschooler who is filled disappointment, sadness and confusion.

He's not the only one.

Though I comprehend death, understand the very basics of this separation of body and soul, I'm stuck struggling with the disappointment, the sadness and a different sort of confusion. A confusion stemming from my dad's choices and his personal decisions and thoughts about how to live life.

There's no easy way to say it, so I'll just put it out there: my father lived his life in snapshots. He compartmentalized many aspects of his life and put them in a picture book according to each designation: work, family, fishing, responsibilities, friends. I rarely saw the lines blur, the sections blend. While he was working, he was working. And mostly, he worked.

His firefighter family and deep sense of service tied him to his job as a captain. Had he worked only as a firefighter, perhaps he would have had more time for the other things in life like family and fishing and household chores. But he chose to work as a security guard, too, at his local hospital. And that left him with maybe one day of rest per week. He worked like a mad man for nearly 30 years because he desperately wanted to provide for his family and secure his retirement {both of which are admirable attributes in ways}.

So apart from work, he lived his life in brief snippets of relaxation, fun and bonding with his family with intentions to live in fullness of family and enjoyment after retirement.

He died 14 months before it.

He only had 14 months to go and then he'd have had all the time in the world to take my boys fishing, to take his wife for weekend vacations spent enjoying cool breezes of the lake, to spend holidays with his family -- to live his life beyond just posing for snapshots of joy, to really bond with his grand kids, my sister, me. But regardless of if he died with 14 months or only 14 hours left until his retirement, the blunt fact is that he'll never see that for which he worked so hard, so tirelessly.

I suppose that's the risk taken when living life in snippets, in so very brief windows of rest and real enjoyment. It's the chance you take when you rigidly divide life into categories, spending the largest chunk of it working so that when you get where you want to be you'll have an easier road.

But if you never get there, what good is the destination ever?

I've purposefully been moving away from living my life in snapshots; I've been ripping out the dividers, the headings, the subtitles in my picture book and smearing the lines between each section attempting to internalize that I should be finding meaning, living purposefully in every.single.moment ... trying to ensure I never count down the minutes/hours/days/weeks/months until I can truly live.

I'm spending moments lost in imagination with my boys now {not after mommy gets done scrubbing the grout in the shower}. I'm breaking free for an hour, leaving the boys in the care of a loved one and writing out loud now {not when they go off to school in a few years}. I'm enjoying my husband now {not when the boys are 18 and able to fend for themselves}. I'm reading God's word first thing in morning {not when I'm struggling to keep my eyes open before my head hits the pillow}. I'm serving Christ and others through service now {not when I'm an empty nester}. I'm struggling to dive into the now and not wait to speak/write/love/live later. God has a purpose for me in the now. And if I get to the later, I'll work on that purpose then.

Because later, 14 months, 14 hours, 14 minutes, may never come. I'm so sorry my dad's later never came because he had so much hope resting in it; but because of his inadvertent, tragic error, I'm making sure that it won't matter if mine never does.


  1. Oh Hyacynth, exactly. I hate that it takes tragic reminders like the loss of your precious father for us to learn this lesson, time and time again. But it's true. Maybe that's how our lost ones live on, through teaching us to finally live our lives. :)

    Many hugs, I know this wasn't easy for you to write, but you did so very well. Beautiful.


  2. beautiful thoughts. thank you.

  3. think you took the words out of my mouth. I've been learning this same lesson since my grandfather's death. And those "" moments? I have those too. Like the other day - my mom was talking on the phone and when she got off I asked her who she was talking to. She said "Grandpa"...and I had to remind myself to breathe, because, even though I knew she meant my other grandpa, I couldn't help but think of the grandpa I will no longer get to hug and love here on earth. And it reminded me to live each and every moment as if it is my last, because I don't know...only He does.

  4. I don't really have a comment but I want to leave one. I held my breath through the entire reading of this. I don't know what to say because I still haven't figured it out myself. But I continue to be amazed by you and your strength.

  5. Amen.
    My dad is still in that mode, and won't come up for air. Won't enjoy what he has (though miles away... which is another thing I can't get into...) because he's engulfed himself in work. He always has, and I fear that he doesn't recognize it. Still.
    This was beautiful, lady. Like Steph said, it couldn't have been easy to write, but I'm so thankful that you did. Hugs to you and your little guy...

  6. I feel like I should stand up and start slow clapping. I am so on board with a life lived now, no more counting down until such-and-such is over or this-and-that has started...
    And like others have said, I can only imagine how hard it is to write on a subject still so very raw. But you did it beautifully.

  7. Oh you made me cry. Really cry. I am again so sorry for your loss. And I know where your dad is coming from. It's so easy to get trapped - although I'm sure he also enjoyed it in many ways. It's why I chickened out and have been back at work the past two weeks. I'm quitting Tuesday. Really.

  8. I am moved. Not only by your words but by the courage and strength that I know it took to get those words to touch "paper". Your Dad taught you such a valuable was his gift to you in so many now. Live IN the now. The words are simple, precise, few. But they carry with them a most difficult task. Be in the moment. You are so right....the grout scrubbing in life can shared can not. The gift your Dad gave to you will live forever as you pass it on to your children....and so on...and so on....<3

  9. Hyacynth, this was such a wonderful piece. You are right, you are right, you are a million times right. This is the way I want to live my life, too. And the way I want my family to live.

    What's that saying I love...Happiness is a journey, not a destination? Something like that.

    You are right. (((Hugs)))

  10. This is beautiful. Heartwrenching, but beautiful. Tragedies are always tragedies but beautiful things can still be learned from them.

  11. Beautifully expressed. I need to remind myself to play, play, play more with my kids.

  12. What a sweet, poignant, thought-provoking post. So true -- life lived NOW is a real blessing.

    Thanks for the reminder. We busy moms need it.

  13. Powerful. Thanks.

    -- Ashley


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