I kept expecting this grand moment when I would feel whole again. I pictured it would be like what I had seen in movies. I hoped for the rooftop scene in Beauty and the Beast when all of the sudden, light radiated from every pore as the Beast was turned into something beautiful. I watched for those moments often in the little glimpses of perfection that would come into my days. I secretly hoped that a powerful ‘rooftop experience’ would bring me the light I craved. I didn’t realize that it would take a series of steps, sometimes in reverse, for true healing to occur. As time passed, and I never had my ‘Beast to a Prince’ experience, I came to learn that such an event was not going to come.
Sometimes it is in the most simple moments that we find healing.
One Saturday, I was working with the kids in the house. We were cleaning up all of our messes from the week. Shawn said he was going to run outside and mow the lawn. We kept up our hard work indoors.
After a while, I realized that Teage wasn’t with us. I searched in all the bedrooms, and there was no sign of him. I walked through the kitchen toward the front room when out the window, I beheld the brightest view.
I sat at the window and with tears in my eyes, I remembered . . .
The summer before Emmett died, I came upon Teage sitting in the exact spot where I now found myself. He was also looking out the window, but he was watching one of the neighbor boys playing catch with his father. That day, I watched my little boy as he longed for what that neighbor boy had—a dad who put his son first, over the demands of work, and the endless hours of responsibilities. I wiped tears from Teage’s eyes that day in an attempt to heal a void I could not fill.
Teague actually asked me that night if Emmett still lived with us. I reassured him that Emmett was just very busy with his preparations to take the bar exam and starting up his new law practice. All of that information—although very true—didn’t take away Teage’s longing for his father to take a moment out of his busy schedule to play with his son. Emmett was excelling at work, and in all of the other things on which he was working so hard . . . but he was failing at the eternal things that really mattered. He was putting off being a dad for another day.
I’m certain that Emmett never thought it would get to that point. He never planned to fail as a father, but the excitement of excelling and the enticement of acquiring ‘more’ kept him from us. He wanted to be a good father. In the beginning of his years as a father, his greatest desire was to be the man his children deserved. On many occasions in the early days of parenthood, Emmett had been just that— but his responsibilities at home continued to increase and eventually his efforts slacked. No matter how many good days as a father he’d had in the past, those days didn’t make up for the fact that he needed to continue and even increase his efforts. He had become so consumed in his work and in ‘providing for his family’ that he actually forgot the real needs of the people who were in it.
Being a parent is more than the work in life. It is the little moments that they will remember.
Now on this day, my view of Teage was very different. I sat in the same spot where Teage had cried tears of disappointment for a dad who had forgotten him, but what I saw as I looked out that window was light. In the hot summer sun, my son was pushing a lawnmower. With Shawn right behind him, Teage was guiding the lawnmower over the grass as if he had just won a prize. He held his head high. His smile beamed more brightly than I had ever seen. He was like a baseball player who had just won the World Series and was walking in a parade for all to see. His trophy was not the lawnmower, or his ability to push it. No, Teage’s trophy that day . . . was Shawn. He was proud to be in the front yard walking in front of his new dad.
I continued to sit at the window as tears of joy fell down my face. All my little boy had dreamed of in his life was playing catch in the yard, or mowing the lawn with his father—and he was living it.
Had Emmett known that his time would have been cut short, I don’t think he would have let a Saturday of mowing the lawn with his son pass him by. I think he would have taken a few more afternoons to throw the ball in the front yard, or to sit on the couch and read stories to his children. If he had known he would die young, he would have remembered to live in each moment.
As I watched Shawn and Teage push that lawnmower up and down the grass, I had an overwhelming sensation that Emmett felt immense gratitude for Shawn. Shawn was giving Teage what Emmett could no longer give—the gift of fatherhood. This day, I wasn’t watching my son long for a father out the window; I was witnessing him living his dream of having a father who took the time to show him what mattered most. Shawn was taking the time to show his son what life was all about.
What is life all about? Sometimes we forget how simple it really is. We forget to let go of the little things that hold us back from the relationships we desire. We forget that all our kids really want is to know they are important and valued. We fail them over and over again . . . and for what? A clean house? More money? A raise? A new car? One more TV show? One more game? Another drink?
As the sun shines down on us, and summer brings us its warmth, let us take the time to see it. There are bright things all around us, but we must choose wisely. Money shines brightly when held up in the daylight. Diamonds glimmer when light reflects upon them. Cars are made of metal that shines brightly in the afternoon heat. Many things can shine. Some light can bring us temporary contentment for a moment . . . and other light can bring us peace and heal us forever. We need to discern between those two types of light.
Our relationships are the things that count. Take every chance you can to show the ones you love how much you care. Tell them you love them, and then show them. Show them that they are more important than the messes they make. Show them that they are more important than their mistakes. Let them see that your time with them is what can heal both of your hearts. Turn to your relationships as you search for light in this world. Show them that they are more important than one more show, another football game, one last high, or one more drink. Help them feel your love by saying no to a demand or an addiction that keeps you from them. Don’t let another day pass by when you forget what is really important . . . and don’t just tell the ones you love what they mean to you—show them.
Money can only last so long, and jobs can be lost. Cars lose their value, and rocks can scratch them. Markets can crash, and diamonds can get stolen . . . but families—families can last forever. It’s true that we will all die, but even after death our relationships do not end. That is why we must cherish them now, because whatever they are today—is how they will be remembered. Our children don’t want to hear that one day we will play catch with them in the front yard—they want to do it now. They are proud of all the hard work we do for them, but that is not what they will remember.
I wish I had the original version, but a long time ago, Emmett wrote a blog post on our family blog about Bo Jackson and the way he put his sons over his game. Emmett talked about how critical it was for all of us to remember what is really important in life. He challenged us to take a minute every day to make sure our children came before anything else. Emmett was in the middle of law school when he wrote that post. I knew at that time, he was fighting the temptation to put school over his family. Most of the time back then, he won that battle. He tried to choose us. He found little moments to come and spend with us. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line after that, he forgot to take his own advice.
None of us are exempt from that advice. The temptation to let our blinders cover the bigger view is powerful. Take the power. When you feel your eyes getting heavy with the view of what is not important—take a stand. You have the power to overcome every temptation even those that come in the form of “I’m doing it for my family.” If you have to justify the fact that you aren’t spending time with your family . . . by saying you are doing it “for them,” make sure that is what they really want. If you work your entire life “for your family,” but then at the end of it, you no longer have one—none of that work will mean a damn thing.
It doesn’t take great sacrifice to be the person you always hoped to be. Once you knock down all the walls of darkness that are clouding your view, it is the Son who will shine through YOU . . . and you will easily remember exactly who you are. It may not be in a grand moment like it was for the Beast on the rooftop, but step by step, light by light—You can become the “Prince.” The Beast didn’t want to live in his pain, and neither do you. Let it go.
If Emmett had a voice today I know without a doubt he would say, “Son . . . I am sorry for all the times I didn’t play with you. I failed when I let the moments slip by when I could have taught you about life. I am sorry for all the times my phone was more important than your questions. I am sorry for putting off being your dad for another day. I wish I could have really seen you when I had you in my arms.”
Remember what you have, and don’t let it slip through your fingertips. Our relationships can be made light, and the power of those connections can help us heal our pain.
Turn to a source of light that can help you see what is really important. The sun is a powerful source, but the Son of God is an even more powerful source of light in a world filled with darkness. Remember the sons and daughters who are waiting at the window for you to be that little ray of sunshine for them. Put down your phones, your computers, and all the other “responsibilities” that keep you from the most important ones. Be the ray of light your loved ones need. The Son of God lives, and His light can live inside of you.