How Dare I Not Live in Joy and Gratitude!

father-kissing-casket-of-soldier-sonI am haunted by the fate of a reluctant American soldier I read about. He was a young husband with a devoted wife who was desperately in love with him. He was a young father with a grade-school son who idolized him. On their last night together before he shipped out, they held each other and cried, and prayed that he would return safely home to his family.

And then he was off to Iraq where not long after, a jeep he was riding in flipped over. And his wife became a widow, and his son was robbed of the man who had been his hero.

And I think how lucky I was to have a great dad who loved me fiercely, who embedded a home plate and pitcher’s rubber in the back yard so I could pitch to him after he came home from a long day’s work.

And I think how lucky I am to have a great daughter who I love fiercely, who stood in front of the tree in our back yard with a big, red plastic bat in her hands while I pitched to her until darkness fell.

And I try to think of all I would have missed had the unthinkable happened, but I can’t, because the pain rises up, raw and ravenous, and my heart breaks all the more for those fathers and sons and mothers and daughters who lost the love of their lives, who crumpled to the ground, shaking and sobbing, as the darkness of despair blanketed them, snuffing out all the light in their lives and weighting them down with the thick, heavy chains of grief.

And I think, How dare I not appreciate every breath I take. How dare I not celebrate every day that offers me endless opportunities to do what I love to do, when and where I love to do it, surrounded by family and friends who love me.

Not appreciating, not celebrating all that I have and all I’ve been given would be a slap in the face to those who never had a chance to experience and savor all the riches that life has showered down on me.

May all the souls who died so young and missed so much rest in peace. And may I honor their memories by living in joy and not taking one glorious, blessed day for granted.


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6 Responses to “How Dare I Not Live in Joy and Gratitude!”

  1. Kim Wencl Says:

    Yes, Phil you’ve got it my friend. When my daughter Liz died I decided very early on that the best way that I could honor her was for me to live a good life. To laugh, to love and to do whatever I can to make the world a better place. It’s what gets me out of bed every day and keeps me going. I’m so thankful for the 20 years that I did have with her and I choose to remember that and not focus on what could have been … well, not too much anyway.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I am humbled and inspired by your attitude, Kim.

  3. Curt Rosengren Says:

    Powerful truths here, Phil. There’s so much we take for granted until we are shaken out of taking it for granted. And too often, that shaking has to take the form of something tragic happening to us personally.

    Putting ourselves in the shoes of someone who would give their eyeteeth for just one more day – one more day with a loved one, one more day of good health, one more day of whatever they have lost – is a great prompt to help us more fully appreciate what we have.

    Kim, I love the idea of honoring your daughter through living a good life. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Well said, Curt. Thanks for weighing in.

  5. Jabulani Says:

    One of the things I truly admire about the Americans is the way they support and uphold their forces. Over here there is a general apathy – perhaps even antipathy – to the war and our forces in general. I am a South African in England and, in my experience, folk here have forgotten what it is to be at war; they take their current freedom for granted and they cannot understand why we’re fighting in a country that has nothing to do with us.

    At this time of year especially, I cannot help but think about all those folk who fought for my freedom all those many years ago … and those who continue to fight for it now. 2 days ago I read of a company who have banned the wearing of poppies, and I was incensed. Apparently it’s not appropriate for their employees to support one charity over another. I don’t agree that Remembrance Day should be weighed against other charities, but perhaps I am wrong. Afterall, my grandfathers fought for the right for that company to have freedom of speech and freedom of opinions, even if I think they are soooo wrong.

    I don’t think anyone in the world today should EVER forget the sacrifice that was made for them – yes, them personally – in all of the wars that have been waged down through history. People have sacrificed their lives so that those left could be selfish and narrow-minded and arrogant and short-sighted. And they also died so that I might have the right to disagree with these aforementioned people. That’s what FREEDOM means … we should never denegrate the privilege that’s been bought for us at so high a price.

    So I shall be standing in the square in our little town on Sunday, at our special service to commemorate all those who were not selfish, narrow-minded, arrogant or short-sighted. And I shall most certainly wear my poppy with pride (as will my children who have been taught this important lesson) and thank God for his goodness, and all those service folk who fought – and fight – for lil ole me.

    Thank you for your post.

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Very well said, Jabulani. Thank you very much for adding your insights.

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