This I Believe

Glenn - Knoxville, Tennessee
Entered on January 17, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family

I believe in making the most of the one life I know I have – while it’s happening.

My father was a fatalist. He often talked about his late father – the grandfather I never knew – and how much I would have liked him. My dad loved to tell stories about his dad who died too young, and I always got the feeling he expected me to continue the tradition. I have. If anything I probably talk about my dad too much. I believe it’s my duty to let people know how great a guy he was. But I also believe I shouldn’t have to. My dad should be here. He’d only be 73 years old – with well over a decade left to share his wit, wisdom and kindness. I think he might have made it if he hadn’t been so convinced that his early death was a foregone conclusion. He might have taken better care of himself. He might have gone for a second opinion after receiving a clean bill of health from an incompetent doctor. My dad’s obsession with his own death probably shortened his life.

I believe that living life in a constant state of preparation for whatever comes next isn’t really living at all. I’ve always thought the act of taking vacation snapshots made my vacations less enjoyable. I’d prefer to focus on the moment rather than worry about capturing it for some future viewing that might not even happen. Planning for the future is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow the present.

It’s a paradox that both encapsulates and complicates my beliefs about life and death: My dad might have lived to see his 53rd birthday if only he’d focused on the future at least to the extent that he improved his health; and yet I believe that focusing on the future takes away from one’s appreciation of the present. The closest I can get is to reconciling these seemingly opposite ideas is to say I prefer to focus on what I know I have – as opposed to the unknown. My dad knew he had a family that loved him and a beating heart that kept him alive. He didn’t know when he would die or what might happen after his death. So I believe he should have planned for a long, happy life with his family and taken better care of his heart in order to make it possible. Death? Unknown. Worrying about it did him not good and probably a lot of harm.

A recent visit to the Grand Canyon brought some of the most inspiring moments of my life. I’ve rarely been so moved as I was sitting quietly near a cliff, admiring the canyon’s grandeur. It was an experience I knew wouldn’t last long, so I had to enjoy every second. I’ll cherish that memory for the rest of my life, but don’t ask me to show you the snapshots.