Hello again. Thanks for allowing me to share more with you. It’s been awhile and I’ve been kicking around a few ideas. Just one more disclaimer…I’m sharing some pretty heavy thoughts with you.
Over the summer I had one of those moments that caught me off guard, and nearly knocked me off center. It’s happened before, but it was a little different this time. It’s a little different every time.
I am the first to admit that I am generally hurried (almost always for that matter), and that at times it may take a lot to catch my attention. However, I can be stopped dead in my tracks.
Anytime a child is ill or a life ends, it’s difficult to hear. Remember in December 2012 when the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings saturated the news? I really struggled with how this happened. Kids less than six years of age left their short, beautiful lives behind that day. Our kids’ preschool issued a letter of reassurance to parents that safety and security of our children came first. It kindly suggested that no one be allowed into the building without a parent badge, or without being directly escorted to the building office. In fact, we were all asked to escort anyone without a badge directly to the office. All good, right? But geez, maybe my kids should just stay at home with me. Over and over and over, this all got me thinking…
Jude had just turned two and Sara was three at the time of Sandy Hook. I remember thinking of the victims’ families. And I kept thinking those kids were no older than six. Six years old. It kept hitting me every morning as I pulled into our usual parking spot and moved us from the car and into the building. And it would hit me again, as I got back into the car with my little people inside and their empty car seats as I left the parking lot.
I personally hurt for those and little lives lost and I thought, “What if I were only given six years with my kids?” I did the math. And it meant that I had already spent half of that time with Sara, and a third with Jude. BOOM! I needed to soften up a bit, refocus my priorities with my family, commit to less busy-ness, and live in memorable moments with my family. It brought perspective on perhaps how much time I had been wasting.
This summer, somewhat similar, but different circumstances arose.
Shelly and I were sharing an afternoon walk with Sara prior to naptime. I was off from work, so we thought some time together would be fun. We were full speed ahead up the sidewalk as we were on a mission. When a nap is in the timeline, you know it’s a priority to stay on schedule. Not off our block yet, a neighbor called for my wife, and Shelly turned around to chat with her. Our families take turns keeping an eye on one another’s home while out-of-town, so I too quickly assumed our neighbors were departing for a bit, and wanted to let us know. Sara and I continued up the block assuming that Shelly would catch up.
I turned around to find Shelly in tears embracing our friend. I was caught off guard…what in the world was going on?
Long story short, our neighbor’s three-week old grandson had just spent the 4th of July weekend in the hospital and was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
Three weeks old and leukemia. Talk about a little more than one of life’s sucker punches. At that time, the exacts of the cancer were unknown. The up-front chance of survival was maybe 10-20%. Not only were they dealt this card, but the ride to even stabilizing him for chemotherapy included a journey into PICU, hard core breathing machines, sedation, spinal taps, crowds of medical staff responding to immediate needs…the list went on and on.
Almost six months later I sit here trying to get my head around this. Why on earth was an innocent newborn and his family handed this? Why was this new Dad told the chance that his son will be here in a year was less than two out of ten coin tosses? I couldn’t, and still can’t answer these questions. I don’t know that anyone can.
I wonder what if this would have been my family? What if I were told there’s not much time to share with my child?
The truth is that I’ve been close before. Sara was a preemie, and is a NICU survivor. We were fortunate to need the NICU for only three weeks. But I’ve been there when no one is certain why what is happening, is happening. Three uncertain weeks of not knowing whether or not my daughter would come home. I’ve been given the news that probability of survival may be low or isn’t really known. And I’ve been that new Dad that can’t hold his child because of all the life-saving measures.
Yet, like most of us, I still need to be reminded to pause.
Funny how life grabs our attention, and continues to prove us so human at times. It is way too easy to get distracted, engulfed, in the fast pace of parenthood, work, and life.
Guilty as charged here.
I need to commit (and recommit) to slowing down, or maybe even slamming on the breaks when life is sharing these moments. I need to accept life’s dare to pause, listen, and decide how to not live my life wasting precious time.
So what did I do, you may be asking? I’m honestly still working on that part (as usual). Me, the constant work-in-progress as a Dad, is still slowing down, being kinder, being gentler, and becoming less self-centered. I am working on listening to everything my children have to tell me because what they so badly want to share with me now is everything to them.
Funny enough, Sara asked to take a walk at 9pm on a summertime Friday night not long after this story happened. Instead of defaulting to getting ready for bed, we put on our shoes and set off in the neighborhood, just her and I. I have no doubt that many we passed by that evening thought “that little girl should be in bed,” but that was our time. And when I put her in the bathtub that night, I admired her lone, life-saving NICU scar on her chest. And gave thanks for the five years we’ve shared. And I soaked up the noise of listening to her splash and play and exist. Just listening to her breathe sometimes amazes me, because it was such a challenge in the beginning. I paused.
On an ending note, I would ask that you remember the mentioned family as leukemia and it’s complications took an infant from his family. However you believe, please don’t forget them.
And, take time to pause. I dare you to be an even better Dad than you already are…no more time wasted.
Thanks again for reading, and don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and maybe even what you can do to pump the brakes.
PS – BEING REMINDED AGAIN
My head hurts, this morning. But honestly, the ache in my heart is greater.
I submitted the above piece a week ago to Larry. Since then, I’ve been reminded again to pause.
I just rushed through the morning drill with my family and my thoughts are fresh. I have a presentation at noon, a plane to catch tonight, an expense report due, a suitcase to pack…you see where this is going. People are counting on me. But instead I am writing to you.
It’s no coincidence this morning that my parking space was right in front of a tree that quietly holds onto a purple ribbon placed there in memory of a life lost last week. Yes, it happened again. A family in our school lost their six-year old son last week the day after I sent my initial writing in. We found out of his passing in a letter from the school’s principal. That letter in my daughter’s backpack stopped me in my tracks. A first-grader gone in his sleep.
Yet, here I am again hurried.
I needed that parking place this morning. I needed to walk past that purple ribbon, and to be reminded. Filled with shame, I had to grit my teeth. It made my head hurt, but my heart hurt even more. As I sit here writing and trying to be better, I accept the dare to slow it down (again). But even more, I am clearly reminded that the most important people counting on me are the ones I wake-up with each morning.
Thank you for helping me pause.