Six Months to Live
I don’t want the following to sound morbid or fatalistic, but I believe, occasionally, wisdom is found in reflecting upon the brevity and preciousness of life…
Today (February 14, 2018) my father would have turned 69 years old… Which means he’s been gone for nearly 19 years – He turned 50 years old on February 14, 1999, and then passed away exactly 6 months later on August 14, 1999. Each year, it shocks me to realize, as if for the first time, that I have lived more of my life without him than I did with him.
Some of my most prized possessions are found in this box which includes many letters written to me, my mom, and some that are just reflections, as well as many personal items that my dad carried daily from his sunglasses, watch, and pocket knife. A few years ago, while pillaging through old mementos at my mom’s home, I found a journal that he kept from 1991 when he had enrolled in a few college classes in hopes of getting a business degree someday. He never got his degree, but I got some of the most precious documents that no amount of money could buy from me.
Among the items and letters, one note stands out above the rest. It is addressed to no one and is dated February 15, 1999… In fact, it isn’t really a letter or note to anyone, but it is more like a journal entry penned on an old notepad. The opening sentences state:
“Yesterday I turned 50 years old… Some thoughts I’ve been having lately…”
In this “letter” he reflects on his own father, noting specifically how he is only 7 years younger than his father was when he passed away. He talks about his battle with cancer over the prior years, his struggles with worry and anxiety over the future of his health, and my mother’s own health in that she was still recovering from a severely broken ankle.
“The only thing that I totally don’t know about is my being a father…”
He begins a discourse about his dreams and hopes of fatherhood followed by the reality of fatherhood. He talks about the good times, the bad times, the hopes for the future, and regrets that he would give anything to change.
The absolute most heartbreaking line of the entire letter for me is, “Someday, I hope Drew has kids as perfect as he is, I just pray that he will be a better daddy than I am… Maybe after watching me, he will at least know what not to do…”
I now understand what my 13-year-old self could never comprehend… Being a parent is the weightiest, scariest, hardest, most rewarding yet most frightening responsibility ever given to a human. Him and my mother did their absolute best that they knew how as parents, and to be real honest, I did neither one of them favors in my teenage years.
I’ve said all the preceding to arrive at this thought – What would you do differently if you knew that in six months you would leave this earth? When my father penned these words, he was expecting to live for many more years, yet, he didn’t. How would he have lived his next six months had he known?
The fact of the matter is that none of us know. While God makes us many promises throughout the Scriptures, tomorrow is not one of them.
I urge you, and the words found on these pages do as well, do not approach this life as if it will go on forever. Make everyday count. Make every conversation count. Hug longer. Love harder. Give more. Write stuff down. Have more conversations. Talk to strangers. Do some crazy stuff for crying out loud… To quote the great philosopher Tim McGraw, “live like you were dying” – because, in fact, you are!
Happy Valentine’s Day
Happy Birthday Dad