After all is said and done

sunset highway
Image courtesy of Unsplash

“You are going to die,” kiddo announced rather matter-of-fact the other night as I helped him get ready for bed.

I see. It was time for one of those talks. “Yes, I am,” I answered, “but hopefully not anytime soon.”

“I am going to live forever,” he replied, “because I eat healthy foods.”

“So do I kiddo, or at least I try.” Okay, so I don’t try quite as hard as he does. Kiddo has always eaten more healthy than I do. The only craving I had while pregnant with him was for tilapia and asparagus and now his favorite meal is salad with a balsamic glaze and a side of strawberries. My six-year-old is a bit of an odd child at times.

“Then why are you going to die?”

“Because that’s what happens when you get older.” Preferably much, much older, but unfortunately you can’t ever quite count on time. Earlier this year a friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness which has now progressed beyond treatment. It doesn’t matter that she is only five years older than me or that one of her sons is near the same age as mine. Her illness neither cares about her age or her children’s.

As I hug my children tighter, I wish that we didn’t need such stark reminders that every moment is precious.

Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.~Chinese Proverb

I love TED talks and was recently reminded of a question posed by David Brooks of the New York Times, who asked in his “Should you live for your resume…, or your eulogy?” In it he mentions that most people when asked, reply that they place a higher value on the virtues they hope their friends and family cite during their eulogy over the accomplishments of their resume. Put differently, when your time comes, do you want your family to announce that you streamlined processes by 85% while meeting and/or exceeding performance goals, or that you never missed a tee-ball game? And yet, the resume accomplishments are what we focus on.

“Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants.”
― Margaret Atwood, Der blinde Mörder

When I began writing, I will admit a driving force was the knowledge that when I was done, I would have something tangible on the shelf with my name on it. I put in the work to prove to myself I had what it takes. Proud as I was of my accomplishment, I gave one of those early copies to the woman who watches LT during the day. She flipped through the pages and saw my children’s names in black and white. “You’ve given them a great gift.”

As we talked, I realized she meant I had given them more than just a thing to remember me by. I had ensured that some small piece of them would be remembered too.

“When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.” ― Jorge Luis Borges

I like to think I am teaching my boys resilience, determination, and the importance of hard work, but maybe just maybe when all is said and done I’ve taught them to dream big, and yet to never forget the value of the small everyday. If I can do that, what other accomplishment do I need?

“The life given us, by nature is short; but the memory of a well-spent life is eternal.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero