Somewhere in my late teens, I started to develop a sensitivity to bleeding. Not to the bleeding from minor cuts and scrapes I got while doing work in my yard or from nicks caused by my razor while shaving, but to the bleeding from deep cuts or wounds associated with some unseen internal damage. I would feel lightheaded if something had cut me deep enough to hit bone. I once passed out while paying for dental work I just had because I was bleeding heavily from the gums where two wisdom teeth were removed.
Into our hands each one was entrusted,
A precious treasure from Heaven above.
With sweet little faces cast in our image,
They teach us all how simply to love.
We hold on well to our precious treasures,
Watching them grow by day and by night.
The world in their eyes is so full of wonder,
Yet to us they are its most blissful sight.
We stand in awe as they start to imagine,
Color the world and brighten our homes.
Unburdening us with their childish laughter –
They make us smile with their smiles alone.
We hurt inside and tears fill our eyes
When from us a precious treasure departs.
It matters not if they were our own,
Seeing them go breaks our spirits and hearts.
So when we cry as these little gifts leave,
And reel from a pain that cuts deep as bone,
A great truth of the world is revealed –
These precious treasures were never ours alone.
For each lovely child parents have in their lives
Is a treasure that comes to them through birth.
But the power children have to enlighten their lives
Can also shine light across the Earth.
No matter the cost, these gifts we must guard
That they might help cast this world anew.
Remembering all the while, we’re here only because
We were all once precious treasures too.
[Inspired by the tragic events of the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting. No words of mine can offer solace to the family members and loved ones of the children who perished. I just want them to know that I grieve with them, as I know many of you do. -M]
The late afternoon skies above New York City on Tuesday were a dull and lifeless shade of gray. Small raindrops fell from the sky with no real force or purpose behind them, as if they were the remnants of tears that rolled off a large face somewhere in the heavens. I held an umbrella in my hand as I walked to the train station, but did not bother to open it. There was something that felt right about the cold raindrops that clung to my face. They served as the tears I was too shy to openly shed in public.
Earlier that morning, my Godfather died suddenly from a heart attack. He was 62.
A few minutes before 6:00 PM two Wednesdays ago, I scurried out of my office in New York City as I usually do, trying to catch the express train back to my home in New Jersey. I walked as fast as my dress shoes allowed me to. Designed for a very different type of use, they caused my shins to strain and my feet to ache as I plowed through the flood of people on the street and headed for the entrance to the underground PATH train. I made it to the entrance in about 10 minutes, as usual, and proceeded to quickly tread the L-shaped staircase down into the stop. Everything about my post-work walk to the PATH up to that point was as it usually was…relatively uneventful. However, what transpired in the next 5 seconds would change every walk I took in NYC from then on and gave me a perspective I will take with me to my grave.
We are raised from childhood to place significant emphasis on our future. Socially, academically, professionally, physically, romantically – we are brought up with the need to predict the outcomes of our future lives in these aspects and take the necessary steps to ensure that those predictions become reality. In a sense, our parents, elders and teachers hand us the mandate to determine how the story of our life should go so that it has a happy ending. We are engaged in this endeavor from the time we are first able to speak and have substantive dialogue with our parents. By the time we become mature adults, we are well-versed in this way of thinking – each day we live is treated as another opportunity to author our story. As we continue to mature, it seems all of our thoughts are influenced by or dedicated to crafting the perfect ending to our story – we become consumed by it, though we seldom acknowledge we’re doing it.
Or so it was for me, until I became a father.
Not a day has gone by since my son was first placed in my hands where I haven’t looked into his eyes and asked myself, “How will his story end?”
Sad in a way, isn’t it? We parents are entrusted with these precious lives with their own stories to tell – the endings to which we will not (hopefully) know. We will spend the better part of our lives laboring for our children, trying to instill good values in them, and teaching them how to live…yet we are not supposed to see how the stories of their lives completely unfold.
I struggled with this realization for a long time. It is an extremely difficult thought to ponder – one that conflates our aspirations with our own mortality. You cannot think of it without confronting the inevitability of your own life’s end, nor can you think of it without feeling the limitless optimism a parent must have when contemplating the future of his or her children. It is a juxtaposition of your story’s ending and the beginning of your children’s stories.
Somewhere in that struggle, however, something wonderful happened. I discovered an immense source of happiness in my new role as co-author (at least for now) of my son’s story. In helping him write his story, I find that the lines of my own story are being rewritten. How amazing it is that in just a few months, the tiny little life entrusted to me – incapable of uttering a word – has started to alter lines of my life’s story which took me years to compose.
No, I do not know how my son’s story will end. Though I will always be curious about it, I hope I never know how it ends. Instead, my hope is that my son sees the ending to my story and how he helped shape it. And while I do not know how my own story will end, I do know for certain that it requires one sentence to make it a happy ending…
He taught his son how to write a good story.