Recently, my (relatively small) church has been touched by a number of losses in a short span of time. I wasn’t very close to any of the deceased, but I knew their families… and I had the opportunity to help put together short remembrance videos for a couple of them (restoring some older pictures and putting them to music). I was honored to be able to do that for the families, and it was interesting to hear the stories and see what pictures people chose when trying to sum up the life of a loved one. It made me wonder what “snapshots” of my life would be most remembered.
With the holiday season here, I’ve also been thinking more about my dad lately. Even though it’s been a year and a half since he passed away, the void just seems more tangible around holidays or significant milestones. Last year was definitely more difficult, and difficult in different ways — for example, things would catch my eye that would have made great gifts for him, or I’d see something that I wanted to tell him about. Last year, it was about constantly being reminded of his absence. This year, it’s more about the memories. Good memories, but still tender. And being back at my mom’s house where every room and nearly every object has a memory attached has only intensified the effect.
Being so close to the end of this semester at school has also given me a few reasons to pause and re-evaluate. I remember when I was in high school, my dad challenged me to define success in my own terms. That was pretty powerful coming from someone who was very successful by most worldly standards. Over the years, I’ve defined it in different ways: finishing school, being independent, working in some sort of ministry, getting the job I wanted, solving problems, making a difference, serving others… all good and noble goals. But how I should define “success” in my current situation, as a non-traditional student in an extremely subjective field? At times there’s been a bit of a disconnect between my goals as a student and my values as an individual. “Success” means making sure that the things that have true & lasting significance don’t get buried under the things that have only temporary importance. The problem is… it’s not always easy to tell the difference when you’re in the middle of it all
My mom & I shared a lot of memories about my dad while I was home. But some of our greatest memories aren’t necessarily things that would have made his top ten list. In fact, some are probably things he’d rather have us forget! But they’re the things that stuck with us, the things we learned & grew from, the things that made us smile… and the things that made him smile. That’s what mattered the most in the end.
And I guess that’s not a bad definition of success: making the choices that would make my earthly father — and my heavenly Father — smile.