Monday, February 24, 2003

Lessons from a boy's life

It was an April morning when springtime wobbled on its spindly legs like a newborn colt. The trees wore an uncertain pastel green, but the sun was strong and warm like a father's hug.

On my way out the door to work, I looked out the kitchen window and saw my 4-year-old son, sitting on his swing set alone. I put down my coffee and my important papers and went out the back door. To play.

"You'll be late," I thought. But then a little boy's smile beamed like a sunrise and I answered, "So what."

I can still see the breeze in his hair as I pushed him on the swing and we laughed and laughed. For some reason, it is tucked away safely between the pages of my memories, still fresh 10 years later. And I wonder: What have I put in there lately?

It's a good question.

Collect memories

The other day I got an e-mail from a reader who shared what he wrote for his father's funeral. It was beautiful, but now it's lost in my deleted files.

What I remember was how he turned simple moments into vivid treasures, like wild strawberries hidden in the grass.

There are moments when our lives are lit by love the way moonlight pours meaning and mystery into a landscape and makes your back yard look as exotic as Spain.

A good life is measured by how many we collect. Ray Neighbor of Milford knows this because he has what he jokingly calls "dead man walking cancer." The pancreatic kind.

"I just watched an excerpt from Larry King," he wrote. "He was interviewing this 8- or 9-year-old child with a terminal illness. He asked the boy if he was afraid of dying. The boy smiled and said, `I'm not afraid of dying. It's just how I die that scares me.' Doesn't that sound familiar? I sat there in my chair - all 58 years of me. I am all that I have ever seen or felt. I am filled with life experiences. I have so many memories tucked away in my mind. I have a heart that bears the scars and blessings of many paths taken. I stared at the screen at this brave young boy who will probably not experience a first kiss; getting a base hit that wins the game for his team; crying alone in his room from a broken heart; staying up all night and watching the sunrise with his friends; the thrill of getting his driver's license; getting fired from a job; standing at the grave site of a loved one; giving the perfect gift at Christmas; being embarrassed in a crowd.

"I flat-out don't know what this life is all about. I do know that every now and then we witness pure courage, pure innocence. We cannot escape the pure sadness of death, but within this sadness there is blended the breathtaking beauty of countless moments of pure joy."

What a ride

"When watching this boy it took on a profound purpose. He made me realize that even life's hurt had value when faced with the reality of never being able to experience it. There is a deeply hidden treasure on this ride. We seldom think of it. We seldom see it until we see a young child who will be denied it. I love life. It is filled with lessons. Today's lesson taught by a young boy."

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