Earlier this month, we were getting ready to celebrate my Dad's birthday. And it just felt clear in our hearts that it was important to really make it meaningful.
Over the last two years, time together simply hasn't been enough. We've also felt the ache for several dear friends grieving losses within their families. The reminder that the 'right now' is a precious gift we can not get back felt loud.
We booked some time away together, the whole extended family. And when it comes to family roles on these kind of trips - mine is usually the one that involves putting together anything related to saying the sappy words.
Except, I'm a chronic over-complicator. So I immediately hit the gas on "dream up something big, or it's not going to be special enough."
I got to work planning. There would be a video slideshow. There would be lots of photos. There would be voice over. There would be music.
And when there's time, going extra is great. I love being able to pull out BIG for my family. So much so, that it's HARD to let go of that when time or circumstances don't cooperate.
The day of my dad's birthday arrived, and I had everything almost together for this 'perfect' video slideshow. I just needed an hour or so to finish it up, and it would be all I thought it was supposed to be.
But... then my Dad asked if I'd join him for a hike. I knew if I went, I'd loose that window of time I had counted on for the slideshow. More importantly though, I knew I didn't want to miss saying yes to time with my dad out on a trail. And I closed the laptop.
When we came back, I had to reimagine this whole slideshow plan. Forcing my over-complicator impulses, to take a backseat and find some chill.
I let go of the pictures. I let go of the music. I let go of the entire slideshow. I was left with simply the words I'd collected from the family. Every member of the family had sent me answers to these three questions...
1. What's something that he does that makes you feel close to and loved by him?
2. What's a memory of a time with him that makes you laugh out loud?
3. What part of his character do you admire, and how has it shaped your own life?
Everyone's answers got typed into a document and put on the ipad. I called the family, all 16 of us, into the living room. A question was read, and then the ipad was passed around so each person could read their words out loud directly to him. The same was repeated for all three questions.
And there wasn't a dry eye in that room.
The words flowed from grandchildren, from my sisters and I, from our spouses, from my mom... to my dad.
So often we struggle to speak our emotions, to say out loud how much we love one another and how much WHO they are means to us and shapes us. But there's power in togetherness. One person's voice gave confidence to another and then another, and the moment just grew in comfort and meaning as we went.
We did it. We made sure he knew exactly how much we think of him, how much he means to us, and how much we love him.
And it was simple.
Actually, I think getting rid of the 'extras,' put all the focus on the words and the emotion they carried.
I learned, again, connection doesn't require complication.
The really good stuff, lies right there in the simple.
(Photo from that birthday hike that I'll never regret taking the time for. )