When Jill and I lived in Florida, we loved being outside, going to local parks, walking on the beach, and hanging out with friends and family. Life was good. Then we moved to the Midwest, and we went to a city where we had no family and knew no one. It was a bittersweet time, with a new job for me, a new school for our daughter, and a new area for my family. We were excited about the move, but we were leaving behind our families and our familiar routines. We knew it would be difficult, but we had faith it would all work out — faith that we would be OK and make the best of it because our family knows how to find happiness in the little things.
Lessons on enjoying the little things in life came the hard way. Jill’s brother experienced a traumatic brain injury when he was a young adult and almost died. She lost several friends in accidents, and also had a father with Huntington’s disease. Jill says those things contributed to her outlook on life: Knowing life is fleeting makes you stop and enjoy the present moment. Knowing that tomorrow could be your last makes today the most special day ever, just like knowing that life may be really hard one day helps you to appreciate how wonderful life is now.
This is one of many reasons why I love her.
Meanwhile, I learned to appreciate the little things because I was a quiet and shy child who often observed his surroundings. Over time, I developed a quality that a friend said was typical of writers: Where others see a tree, writers tend to see the roots beneath. Thus, I saw and felt things that others usually missed. In turn, this strengthened my habit of enjoying the little things.
Thornton Wilder expressed this sentiment in his play, Our Town. Emily, one of the main characters, dies in childbirth and asks to relive a day in her life. She notices that many who are living don’t seem to realize how awesome life can be because they are too busy or burdened. This snippet of dialogue reflects her dismay:
EMILY: Does anyone ever realize life while they live it … every minute?
STAGE MANAGER: No. Saints and poets maybe … they do some.
Despite the sadness of knowing my wife and daughter have a terrible disease, I’ve maintained some semblance of balance through my faith in God and spending time with my family. We enjoy the sun on our faces. We love to hear about each other’s days. I love to hold hands with Jill as we walk. We tell each other “I love you” often. We give each other random hugs throughout the day. We laugh at our dog when the dog does funny things, like holding a bone in her mouth like a cigar.
As time passes and Jill’s illness progresses, I pray that she will continue to find joy in the little things and that I am able to face each and every day with that same joy … every, every minute.
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