Several months before the love of my life, my beautiful bride, passed, I began to write love letters. The normal CaringBridge approach of talking about the disease, her cancer, just didn’t seem right to me. After Maureen’s passing, I continued to write, because our love did not end on the day of her passing. She may not be present physically, but her love is fully present. We are still connected.
Over the last several months, I have been privileged to share words of love that come from the hearts of our three children, Taylor (18), Kyla (15) and Katelyn (13). As we “celebrated” what would have been Maureen’s 53rd birthday yesterday, Taylor, our eldest, was in the air. Flying Etihad Airways. To Thailand for a Global Village Build with Habitat for Humanity in Udon Thani. Today, I share his words. His voice. His love. I love you son. Mommy loves you. God’s speed…
Day One | 27 April 2017
Day one. Today was all about emotion. Excitement. Worry. Sadness. Anger. Happiness. A sense of belonging. Emotions that did not happen in one particular order, but that occurred intermittently throughout the day. Occurrences that affected my mood. That affected how I saw and moved though the world at that particular moment. I realized just how beautiful and wonderful emotions are. But also how destructive, distracting, and debilitating they can be if you allow the negative ones to consume you.
Sitting here on the plane from Dallas to Abu Dhabi has allowed me to think a lot. I’ve thought about what I think the future might hold. About the past twelve years at a school that I’ve been so lucky to call home. About how my life has transformed from being what most would consider to be a typical high school boy into a leader, an inspiration to some, and example for many more. But while thinking about all of those things, I realized that its not just about not letting the negative emotions consume you. Its about not letting your accolades, your accomplishments, or awards consume you either. In the grand scheme of things, all of that is insubstantial. Instead, continue to move through life with your head down but with your heart up. Put one foot in front of the other. Breathe one breath at a time. Live life humbly.
We are all born individuals, humans, people. We are all intrinsically different. We are all unique. We all have different gifts, different passions, and different talents that we call our own. I believe life is about discovering those talents and using them to please God. We do not need to put others down to build ourselves up. We need to learn how to love each other. We need to learn to love ourselves. As 1st Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I love my mom. I love my sisters. I love my dad. I love every single person I have had to privilege to cross paths with. Love someone. Love everyone. Love something. Love everything. It does not matter how big or how small that thing is. All that matters is that if you do it because because of love, then it always enough. So let us live. And let us love.
Day Two | 28 April 2017
When you are sitting on a plane for what feels like hours on end, time becomes a very predominant feature of your experience. You begin to wonder: how much longer? How long have I already been here? Why am I not in First Class?! But at a certain point, these questions begin to go deeper. They become what is time? Who created it? Why does everyone follow it? This line of thinking continues into who created everything we do? Things like science, arithmetic, language, design. The list goes on. And on. And on. And on. For me, the answer goes back to one of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs:
Everything around you that we call life was made up by people no smarter than you… you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. You can poke life. You can improve it. You can make your mark upon it. You can make it better.
Don’t settle. Think differently. Challenge the status quo. Do big. Not small. Because doing something big takes the same amount of time as doing something small. So why not do something big?
Day Five | 2 May 2017
Smiles. The window into someone’s life. The doorway into a person’s happiness. A snapshot. A snippet. A moment. These are the moments we glance over most often. Forget. Disregard. For one little girl in Thailand, these moments are all she has. This little girl skips. She runs down the street. She watches eagerly. She helps pass the pails. She wears a yellow shirt. And a red skirt. For now, she has no name. To us, she is the girl who smiles. Her situation doesn’t faze her. It doesn’t envelop her. It strengthens her. She is able to find so much in so little. The positive in the negative. Beauty in rubble. Peace in discord. When I look at her, I cannot help but smile myself. I can not help but cry. Not because I feel shame for my “privilege”. Not because I feel like I am not doing enough. Like I’m not being enough. Like I’m not enough. Because I am enough. She is enough. We are all enough. We don’t have to be anything more than we are.
As Theodore Roosevelt says in his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…
No one is in the arena with you. So fight on. And smile.