My mind shudders and my heart breaks to think of the number of children left parent-less because of terrorism. They are the littlest of victims and their young minds can't even process it all. It will take them a while. Then add to that the number children who have lost parents to cancer or senseless violence etc. and we are left with a population children who only have the memory of a parent to guide them on their way.
In 1989, I headed off to college over packed and under prepared. As my first semester wore on, I got worn out. My first week of finals had left me both exhausted and enthusiastic to return home. The holidays were going great and then my Father got terribly sick. The remainder of my holiday break was spent focused around my Fathers illness. I was to learn on this break that his kidneys weren't functioning properly and that per a hospital doctor, his days were numbered.
As January unfolded I headed back to college with a very heavy heart. Your head swims...Will he see me graduate? Will he be there when I get married? Will he ever see my children? Well to make a long story short - he got a kidney transplant several years later and lived until 1999 (direct cause of death was not due to his kidney). By this point, I had graduated and married. We had not had our children yet. It would 7 years before that happened.
Between 1989 and 1999 as a family we did our best to capitalize on the time we had together. There was an intensified purpose to what we did together. We understood that as a family we had the luxury of knowing that we would not have the privilege of our fathers presence for as long as we would have liked. Sadly, as a family the opportunity we had was rare. Most families that experience tragedy and get torn apart in an instant. In a blink they are changed.
Given the current state of the world - the rapid acceleration of terrorism, the prevalence of cancer, and the increased occurrence of random violence - the concept of living with purpose has never been more important. "And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter," characterizes the soul of purposeful living ( Tim McGraw - "Live Like You Were Dying") The kind of living that leaves a legacy in the lives of those that remain.
When I first started dating my husband, I pretty much dumped him two weeks in. You see, he has diabetes. He and my father were diagnosed with diabetes in the same year. My husband was just 5 years old. Having spent several years already seeing my father fight the adverse effects of this disease, I didn't want to face that. And I didn't want to be left with a family to raise on my own. However, I shortly realized that anything could take any of us at any time. I also realized that having watched my mother handle so much - I could do the same when the time called for it.
Now, as we raise our little girls we do so with goal that they really know their parents. We share our beliefs our passions. We own our mistakes and we show them our humanity. We answer every question regardless of how awkward it is. William Shakespeare said, "No legacy is so rich than honesty." Our life isn't perfect and isn't always filled with hallmark moments. Some days are quite mundane - bus stop drop, gym, laundry, bus stop pickup, homework, dinner, and bed. But, we do the best we can.
On the other hand we don't live fatalistically. We don't live as if death is around the corner. We live life within the day we are given. And we do worry about tomorrow and reflect on yesterday. But mixed into all of that is a lot of sharing who we are. We tell them stories about those that came before us. We do our best with the the small portions we have between all of the daily insanity.
And you know, should I ever have to walk the road alone with my girls we will honor their dad. We'll hit several Yankee games a year. Maybe we will yell a bit too enthusiastically at the TV when we can't be at the stadium. We will pray and hope for justice for all victims regardless of their circumstance. And we will listen to James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel every Saturday morning. But more importantly remember how we were all loved. It is that love that will carry the children through any fire headed their way. It is that love that will warm them and give them comfort when they feel lost and alone.
As an aside, say a prayer today for all the children left behind. Their needs are many.