Lessons from Dad: The Good and the Bad

Lessons from Dad: The Good and the Bad

“When the good comes, take all you can get.  ‘Cause when the bad comes, it takes all that you’ve got.”  -Dad

My family loves to celebrate life.  A birthday or holiday will always find us around the dining room table, talking loudly, laughing uproariously, eating like it’s our last meal.  We even try to get together every other week for “Family Night” just because we like to have an excuse to throw a party.  We play games, tell stories, compare notes on life; we gobble up the good things because we understand that, in this life, the good things aren’t guaranteed.

The other day, I was thinking about my little niece and how I felt the day she had open-heart surgery.  I don’t think anything can prepare a person for what it’s like to sit in a waiting room and wonder if someone you love is going to live or die.  Every second is an eternity.  Every nerve is strung tight.  Moments like that are defined by clarity.  Clarity in the sudden realization of what’s important.  Clarity in the way it will always be remembered, always stay with you, contributing to the definition of who you are and why.  I went to sleep that night, somewhere between tossing and turning, expecting to wake up to tragedy.  Exhausted from fear and hope tugging at opposite sides of my heart, it truly took everything I had.
Dad said it best in those difficult days, “When the good comes, take all you can get.  ‘Cause when the bad comes, it takes all that you’ve got.”  In fact, in a way, it became his life’s motto.  A wise person understands that sometimes bad things happen, unprovoked, unexplained, and unexpected.  And the best way to combat the affects is to never take for granted the happy moments, the celebrations.  So now, when I see my niece run and giggle and dance, I tuck these moments away.  I focus on the good things, and I take all that I can get. 

When my nephew was born, we again found ourselves in a waiting room at a children’s hospital, praying for good news, bracing for bad news, and hoping that we’d get another miracle.  Today, I relish every occasion to hold him, sing to him, and love on him.  Again, focusing on the good things, aware that bad things sometimes come suddenly with little opportunity to prepare.

I say all this to illustrate my father’s philosophy.  Life will offer you ample occasions for joy, happiness, prosperity, time to rest, time to laugh, time to play and dance and dream.  Each day presents you with the opportunity to enhance an improved quality of life for yourself and those around you.  It might be something small, like smiling at a stranger you pass on the street, or something big, like going to school to be a Cardiologist.  Take all you can get, because life will also present you with more than your fair share of occasions to cry, get frustrated, experience poverty, be serious, and be still.  It will take all that you’ve got.  So today, fill your reservoir with the good things, the positive things, the true things, honest, just, pure, and lovely things.  Fill it up until it’s overflowing.  I think Dad would say, that’s the secret to a life well lived.

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