I’m Not As Important As I Think I Am, With One Exception
The funeral home was standing room only. Flowers and gifts from well wishers lined the walls and occupied every corner. Friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors stopped by to pay their respects. They were kind and thoughtful, but in the end they would go back to their lives and my sister would still be gone. The football games were still scheduled to play that weekend, the latest blockbuster movie would come out, and people would go on with their lives without much thought. That’s just how it works, life must go on.
Just a few days earlier I learned that my sister, Kim, had passed away unexpectedly leaving behind her husband and young four year old son, Zachary. I was saddened to watch my parents grieve over the loss of their daughter. My dad lost weight because he had not eaten in a week. The experience drained my mom so much that she became severely dehydrated and so sick that she was physically unable to attend the funeral. Daryl, Kim’s husband, had a blank stare and seemed like he was in a constant state of shock.
Death has a way of forcing you to focus on what is important. It makes you assess your priorities and take stock of your life. The harsh reality is that Kim was gone, she would never come back. Daryl would eventually move on with his life and remarry. My parents will always mourn the loss of their daughter, but at least they had another child. I eventually married myself and began my own family, each day leaving behind the memory of my sister. None of us would have chosen this path, but it was what life handed us. We each mourned Kim’s death in our own way and eventually, like the world, had to move on, a harsh reality of life. However, there is one that can never be the same.
The night we greeted people at the funeral home during my sister’s viewing was a long one. There were hoards people and so much activity that I could not think or focus, I could only react. Amidst the chaos I could see a small figure sitting alone in the corner, his tiny legs dangling from the seat. He had some snacks sitting on a small table next to him. He was dressed in little khaki pants and a plaid button down shirt. His hair was neatly arranged and he wore a nice pair of brown shoes. His attention was occupied with a little stuffed animal frog, that he called Felipe. Several friends and relatives took turns tending to him, but in reality he was alone, more alone than anyone else in that room. Zach, my little nephew, lost his mother. The only mother he could ever have and his greatest supporter on earth. My heart ached for him for I knew he lost something that could never be replaced.
A few weeks ago, on a Friday night, I was at a Cross Country meet coaching my Boys and Girls Varsity High school team. The meet was literally in the middle of nowhere. The course was surrounded by cornfields and there was little civilization within a 10 mile radius. It was raining hard and I was focused on preparing my teams to compete and win the races. I was so occupied with what I was doing that I forgot about my seven year old son, Ryan, who was waiting for me back at the team bus. Earlier, he became soaked from the rain and wet grass and needed to change his wet socks. I escorted him to the bus and told him to change his socks and to wait for me at the bus to return. I was so busy coaching my team that I forgot about Ryan.
My heart sank, once I realized that I had left him alone for nearly 30 minutes. I ran back towards the bus to find him. As I maneuvered my way through the packed parking lot of cars, vans and other team buses I spotted the figure of a small boy waiting, eagerly looking for his father. We locked eyes and he smiled and waved at me. He ran and jumped into my arms and hugged me tight.
“Daddy, I waited for you, what took you so long?” Ryan said.
“I’m sorry, Ryan.” I responded.
“Daddy, did you forget about me?” He asked, his big brown eyes looking intently up at me.
I lowered my head in shame, “Yes, I’m sorry, buddy, I just got a little busy.”
Ryan grabbed my hand as we began to walk together. “It’s okay, Daddy. You’re here now.”
Later, I thought back to that moment, at the funeral home, thirteen years ago. I reflected on images of that little boy waiting for his mother to return to him. She would never return. His life changed forever, and he could never replace what he lost.
In the end, most of what I care about in this world doesn’t matter. My job title, my home and my possessions really mean nothing. I’ve come to the realization that I am really not that important to the world, with one exception. I’m a father to three beautiful young children. My kids, Ashley, Ryan, and Adrian only have one father. To them, I cannot be replaced. They suffer the most when I’m absent, not accountable, or distant.
My cross-country team could find another coach, my company could find another sales person, even my wife could find another husband if I were gone. My kids; however, only have one father. God gave me that blessing and awesome responsibility; therefore, I vow to always show up in my kid’s lives and to be there for them whenever they need me.
My kids will grow up and start their only families one day. Life will continue to roar on and eventually I will grow old and my body will begin to fail and God will call me home. But until that time, whenever my kids pause and they look in the crowd to find their father, it won’t take them long to discover me, because I will be close to them in mind, body and spirit.
Yes, my life is just a ripple in this world; however, for those three little ones I’m a tidal wave and invaluable to their well being and growth. I am their father and forever bound to their souls and will never take that awesome gift for granted. Are you a parent? What are you doing to shape and support your child? Sometimes it’s just enough to be there for them. Start there and make that your number one goal, every day. I am.