"We all eventually reach the end of our march. For some of us, the route is long. For others, the path is short. But it's not the length of the journey that matters as much as the steps we take. If you discovered disease was about to cut your life short, no one could rightfully judge you for dropping out of line. But for those who refuse to let an incurable illness keep them from doing their duty, for those who keep fighting, for those who live life vigorously and joyfully to the very end, we have names for those people. We call them heroes.. . ."
- Robin Williams in the Foreword to "Tell My Sons: A Father's Last Letters" by Lt. Col. Mark Weber
As a child you probably remember picking a dandelion and wishing for something. In that small moment, you felt the joy of childhood rush over you. You understood what it was to enjoy the present and appreciate it. To this day, I still smile when I see dandelions, and I bet you do too.
Somehow as adults we lose that sense of simple joy so easily. In fact, if we think about it, each day is filled with one thousand tiny moments. They are almost like a jigsaw puzzle that doesn’t make much sense at first, but fits together neatly after it is done. These little seemingly unimportant things, all add together to define us. These small spaces in our life are actually part of a much larger picture. No matter what is going on around us, these moments define us in ways that we don’t always appreciate. We are in many ways, a reflection of those little things, the small actions that come to have more meaning when life is at it’s end or when we let go of everything unimportant.
Such is a lesson in the book, Tell my Sons: A Father’s Last Letters. It is the story of Lt Col. Mark Weber, a 38 year old family man with three boys, who was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer, after a pre-deployment physical exam. He wishes to leave them letters with what he has learned about life, and the things he wishes for them to come to understand one day.
Despite his extreme battle with stomach cancer, Mark Weber remembers to value and appreciate the significance of these little moments in time, both past and present. He credits these small, unassuming instances of doing “ordinary” things extraordinarily well, as a series of fortunate events that ultimately lead him to career success and happiness in his family life.
Even in his sickness, he finds love in the little moments with his family, like when his son sings him the song, “To my Father” at a school recital. Instead of focusing on his grueling cancer treatments, he resolves to spend time with his family whole-heartedly and asks his son to sing the song with him at an event. You come to see that the final years of his life are defined by strength rather than weakness, courage rather than fear, and humor rather than depression. He is a man many could look up to, not just for his career, but for his resolve in the face of extreme adversity.
If there is one thing I took away from his touching story, it is to remember the little things. These “little moments” can be beautiful or ugly, kind or impatient, light or dark, peaceful or full of anxiety. Life is a series of little quiet moments, that only we are intimately familiar with. Perhaps no one will know we held the door for that stranger. Perhaps no one will know how well we performed a small task for a customer at our job. Perhaps no one will ever see the polite way we treat cashiers, or the “thank yous” we give while driving. But in the end, we can see them. Each moment in itself may seem meaningless, but taken in their entirety they are profoundly powerful. There are many things out of our control: sickness, death, loss, the list can go on, but the things that are immediately present and are easiest to change are the very things we ignore: the small, little, seemingly unimportant moments that pass us each day-as if unimportant-but define our very being.
I challenge you today to consider how you can live your life differently – for one day-and then for one week-focusing on how you can do as Lt Col Weber said, “ordinary things extraordinarily well”. It is in these things that we live each moment in the present, and truly let go.