There are moments in life that speak to us. They stop us mid-step, interrupt our conversation, illuminate a scene. These moments are opportunities to pause what we’re doing and be, to brand an image in our minds for eternity, to speak into existence what’s been trapped in our hearts.
When they come, you have a decision to make and no time to deliberate. You either grab the moment — or let it pass.
The August sun basked our faux river stones in warmth. I’d taken it upon myself to lay the stones in orderly lines across the backyard grass according to size. Dad was mixing some sort of plaster in the rusted wheelbarrow. The plan was to put the plaster on the flat back of the stones, then stick the stones onto the side of the house — already stripped of the grey plastic siding.
My eyes scanned over the rows and I waited for one to call out to me. When I felt its pull, I’d pick it up and hand it to Dad. I held a white oval one from the medium-small line in my hands while Dad took his place on the ladder to mount my last pick.
A moment came.
“Look”, it said, “don’t turn around, appreciate this moment, take it in”.
I could have ignored it. I almost turned to view the potted flowers to my left. There was nothing special about this moment, just another project in the yard. We’d done plenty and had more planned. Surely, the right time to pause and appreciate is after the facade wall is complete.
Still, I didn’t turn to view the flowers. As if I were a statue, I froze in place and watched Dad balance near the top. The back of his neck was tanned and wrinkled as he looked up. When he reached to the right and pressed the plastered stone to the wall, his faded blue shirt came untucked revealing a vulnerable white patch of skin on his side.
“How’s that?”, he asked me, crumbling the spell cast upon me.
“It’s perfect”, I said.
I didn’t know it, but we would never finish that wall together.
It was just after five o’clock in the evening. While some kind of meat was cooking in the kitchen, I heard Dad’s footsteps nearing my bedroom.
In the doorway, I saw him holding his phone, which meant he found either an amusing or inspirational post on Facebook he wanted me to see.
I’d already shown him several times how to click “comment” and type my name, explaining I would be notified and he wouldn’t need to find me every time he wanted to show me something on social media. I gave up when I realized the whole reason he wanted to show me a video, was to see my reaction — something he couldn’t do if he tagged me.
“I want to show you something. Just sec, let me find it again,” Dad said. He’d accidentally lost the post while walking across the dining room from the kitchen.
A moment came.
“Stop typing,” it said, “give him your attention, appreciate this moment, take it in”.
I could have kept working while he found it. I almost finished the sentence I was typing but closed my laptop instead. This moment holds no value. He’s done this a million times, and odds are he’ll do it a million more. Surely, there’s a different, better, moment to appreciate.
When I look up at him from my low bed, I’m reminded of how tall he seemed when I was a kid. His favorite blue sweatshirt hung from his shoulders and sweatpants bunched at his ankles. His feet, are my feet. His mouth stayed in a frozen smile, barely showing his bruised front tooth — the result of youth adventure. His eyes concentrated on his scrolling.
“Found it,” for an instant he became a child again, excited and proud of his efforts. Dad handed me his phone and when it exchanged hands, the moment ended.
I didn’t know it, but a few months later I’d give anything for him to show me a Facebook post.
I rounded a corner of the drafty airplane hanger — home to Dad’s aviation business and countless childhood memories. Airpods were playing a podcast in my ears while I walked to refill a container of screws needed for my project.
Dad was on the opposite side of a stripped-down Cessna, his back to me while he worked on the table in front of him.
A moment came.
“Stop walking”, it said, “don’t make a sound, appreciate this moment, take it in”.
I didn’t have to listen, I almost called out to him, but I didn’t. This moment didn’t appear significant. Within hours I’d be sitting in the passenger seat while Dad drove us home, surely that would be a better time to pause and appreciate.
My feet did not obey my mind when I commanded them to move. My eyes locked on Dad. His tall weary frame with slumped shoulders. His once dark curly hair was now the color of rain clouds, and his cancer medication made his curls limp revealing the swirled cowlick on the crown of his head.
He was wearing a forest green flannel button-up. Sawdust, like snow, on his shoulders and in his hair. His worn brown belt was the only force keeping his paint-stained jeans on his thinned body.
My eyes stayed locked on him as if my retinas needed an extra moment of exposure to imprint his image onto my soul. For a moment I had no thoughts, I only felt — and I felt everything. A single tear formed in my left eye, but I wiped it away before it could fall. The moment went with it.
I didn’t know it, but Dad was bleeding internally.
About a week later, Dad passed away. The chest pain, which we thought was a rib out of place, was actually a tumor in his gut that punctured an artery.
I’ll never have another moment with my dad again. But I have the ones above, and many others, seared onto my heart forever.
Life goes by fast and waits for no one. Every once in a while though, planets align, energies sync or some other mystical coincidence cause us to pause — just for a moment. It doesn’t always make sense at the time, it doesn’t always seem special or significant, but I can tell you that every single moment matters. It might just be a fraction of time, but moments contain the entire world.