“I never knew how good life was.” I hear that from Dorothy every so often, as well as others. I never really knew what I had was so good – compared to not having it. I had my home, my two children, Dorothy had a great job she enjoys, and my business was growing every year. We went on vacations; I enjoyed listening to music and cooking for my family, and looked forward to speaking to my kids and hearing what they were up to every so often. Life was good. I looked forward to a future watching my son and my daughter growing up, maturing, falling in love, and having children. Retiring one day and sitting at home, looking back on my life and smiling, and looking forward to a house full of grandchildren for the holidays. I had a lot one day. Did I appreciate it? I probably did, but maybe not enough. I hugged my children and my wife whenever I could. I told them I loved them. I smiled when I looked at their pictures in my office, I was thankful my life path was in a good direction. I was happy. All until I received that call late at night from Boulder. We get up in the morning, and there is food in our refrigerator, and clean clothes in our drawers. We go outside in the morning and start our car, and take that car to work or shopping or to go see someone. We take for granted all these things – our food, our clothes, our car. But the day when the car is not working we get upset and angry for not having it – without really appreciating the days that we do have it. When the television breaks or cable is out and we have no TV that night we are upset because we have nothing to watch, but again, do we appreciate the hundreds and hundreds of days when our TV did turn on with the push of a button?
What I have learned through this is that I appreciate my daughter so much more now. I appreciate every second I spend with Nicole, every meal we eat together, every phone call and every text I get from her. I smile when I look at the pictures of her on my desk, and browse through the pictures of her on my phone. I look at the pictures of her growing up – and I am glad that I was there for so much of what she did. I appreciate the fact that I was able to coach her for so many years, that I went to every concert and play she was in while at school, and that I went to every parent teacher conference and heard her teachers praising her (most of the time). I appreciate it so much more, just thinking about it makes my eyes tear up. I appreciate it when she is home and we sit on the couch and watch a Rangers game. We don’t have to talk, but just sitting there with her makes me happy and fulfilled. When she is home for the summer and watches baseball with Dorothy, it makes her so happy. I don’t particularly enjoy watching the games, but the time that I get to sit there with her, watching her, being proud of her, is time that I will never get back, and I don’t want to miss out on it. When I go to her games and see he dressed in her college jersey, it makes me proud that she has worked so hard for so many years to reach that level of hockey – we must have done something right when we raised her. I have always appreciated these times, but the appreciation is so much deeper now and so much more emotional. I also have learned to appreciate what my father had given to me so many years ago. What he taught me, what he said to me, and the legacy that was my father. Although my time with my father was short, far too short for a young boy to appreciate, I have learned to cherish that time and really appreciate it. But I see others; others who do not appear to appreciate what they have. They take their lives for granted, they take their money for granted, and they treat what they have as if they can’t lose it. I look at them and say to myself, please appreciate it. Please. Especially – please appreciate your kids – please appreciate your parents. One day you might receive that call that they are no longer with you. I do hope that you never receive the call that we did one night. I hope no one would ever receive such a devastating life-changing call. But I also hope that you appreciate what you have, whatever that is. Look at your children and smile. Take every breath and memory in, and realize that they are limited in number. Do you have another ten memories with those you love, or another ten thousand? Who knows? Will they say you appreciated life and lived it to its fullest, or will there be regrets and sorrow when you are gone? Will you think of all the things that you should have said to your children, or your parents, or your spouse, when they are no longer here? Or will you be at peace when the time comes. We all generally have good lives, some better than others. We smile, we play, we work, we travel, but do we really appreciate how good our lives are? I see friends who don’t have a relationship with their children, and I have players I have coached who don’t really talk to their parents, sometimes over minor or stupid things. Then they are gone one day and it is too late. I talked to one of Andrew’s teammates / friends after his game last year who had moved pretty far away. I asked him about his dad and he said he really doesn’t talk to him much, they don’t get along. We talked a little about it, and I told him what I would give to have a relationship with my son at this point in my life, and that fact that I will never be able to have that relationship again. A few months later I see he posted new pictures of him and his father on facebook, shaking hands and hugging. Now I don’t think my conversation with him precipitated this, but I smiled and was happy about it. I was happy that they were talking again. I was happy that they learned to appreciate each other – and leave the crap aside. Think about what you have now. Not just your material possessions, but also your family. Look at your spouse, your family, and your friends. Look at your home, your job, the things you collect and enjoy… Now close your eyes (after you finish reading this). Think about the unimaginable. Think about life without them, without any one thing. So appreciate what you have. And for your family and friends – let them know you appreciate them. As Dorothy says so often now – “I really never knew how good my life was before” PS – I have a few close friends review and edit what I write prior to me posting the entries. They make sure the post makes sense, they look for spelling mistakes, and check grammar. After reading and editing this one, my editor, and one of my closest friends since second grade, sent me this note – I really do appreciate it. “I hope you realize this philosophy of yours was not a result of Andrew’s passing. That you believed and lived this all along and that Andrew was the beneficiary of it. I remember well and often recall when i was working my ass off and doing well financially, and you reminded me in pretty strong terms about what is important…..”