I’ve been working on my dad’s Celebration of Life service; trying to write an appropriate and worthy epilogue to his life. As my friend, Faye said to me, “How can you summarize someone’s life? Seems like an oxymoron to me.”
And she’s right, how can anyone summarize another person’s life? I think it would be hard enough to summarize my own life, and I’ve been present for the whole thing. I was only in my dad’s life for 50 of his 75 years, and I left home when I was 17.
And further, my experience as his child is different from my brother’s or my sister’s. But still, I was very close to my dad. We talked often, and I look forward to standing in front of a room filled with his friends, relatives, and students and talking about my dad.
My brother was his best man at dad’s wedding, my sister was the Executor of his estate, and this will be my part.
So I’m trying to remember the details. What made dad, Dad. What made him the kind of professor that former students still reach out to me to express their sadness for the loss of this man from the planet?
Days pass by so quickly now. The older I get, the faster they seem. My daughter, Hadley, a mere 22 years old, even remarked on how fast time is passing now she has a full time professional position in a tech company in Los Angeles. Her comment to me was “I look at the clock and it’s 10 (am), and the next time I look at the clock it’s 7 (pm).” (She really likes her new job 🙂
The details of our days are significant, even the Everyday days. We seem to place more importance on the Big Day days…holidays, birthdays, wedding, graduation. But in comparison, we have so many more of the Everyday days and those are the days, the moments, the details that I’m remembering now.
One thing my father taught me is that our lives are made up of all the choices we make. He was never very big on giving out advice, even when I asked him. “Jannie”, he’d say, “You can figure it out.” He trusted that he and my mother had raised us to know right from wrong and after that, we were smart enough to make our own choices, and live with the consequences of those choices.
And in the end, we remember the priorities. Who and what were the priorities in his life, in anyone’s life? Now that he’s gone, that his days are done, it’s easier to look back and discover what choices he made and what his priorities were. But were they actually his choices and priorities, did he pay attention to the details of his life and consciously choose? I hope so. But then I look at my life and I know, much of what I do feels more like a “should do” than a choice.
Choices. Details. Priorities.
Seems easy enough when spelled out in three words, but so much harder when trying to incorporate them into a real life Saturday. Do I choose to work on my taxes, or spend the day breathing the fresh air, feeling the sun on my face as I ski through the fresh powder on the mountain with my husband? Do I clean my house, write my Christmas Cards, or sit on the couch watching a movie with my 15 year old who asked to spend time with me? Do I take the dog for a walk on the river road to get some exercise for both of us, or do I put together a care package for my daughter who lives far away from me now?
All the choices that make up the priorities, that create the details of our lives. The days are going by fast, but I’m trying to be more mindful of the choices I make in regards to how I spend my time; the currency of my life. Because when it’s done, I want my children to know what and who my priorities were. As I know, I was to my father.
Yesterday I made the choice to make a big batch of Quinoa Salad. I’ve included the recipe for Hadley. Make it up on the weekend, then pack in small containers and take it to the office for lunch. It’s a good source of Fiber and Protein, and you can eat it warm or cold. Enjoy!
Quinoa Salad with Zuchinni and Almonds
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup quinoa
- 3 TBS olive oil
- 1 yellow or red pepper, ribs and seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 1/4 tsp red-pepper flakes (MAKES IT SPICEY)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- Dash salt (optional)
- 2 medium zucchini (green and yellow), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1 large celery stalk, diced
- SUBSTITUTIONS: Spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts (any other veggies can be thrown in if you don’t have zucchini or celery)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear; drain well. When oven is hot, toast almonds until crisp, lightly browned, and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, In a large skillet with a lid, heat 1 1/2 TBS olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper, garlic, scallions, and red-pepper flakes; cook until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in quinoa, thyme, 2 cups water, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 5-7 minutes. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook until quinoa is tender but not mushy, 3-5 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from heat.
- Stir in celery, almonds, and remaining olive oil, season with salt (optional), and fluff with a fork. Eat right away, or cool and then pack in lunch-size containers.
- Your dad likes to squeeze lime over his. You can also throw in some fresh thyme (easier to do in the summer, in Montana) This is good warm or cold. Feed it to Mike, he’ll like it too.
See you all next Sunday. And thank you for letting me know you read this, it means more to me than you could ever know. Jana (Mom)
3 thoughts on “Details. Choices. Priorities.”
So true, and well written, as always! I am so glad that you are the one to prepare the service and give the eulogy Jana, you have such a wonderful way of telling it like it is and making people think. Sounds like someone else I knew…you Are your Father’s daughter (the favorite one of course!) Did you find Dad’s Statement of Faith to email to Carl? If not, give me his email and I’ll send it to him. I spoke to Craig last night and he’s going to talk to Aunt lila Lee and Uncle Arlan and Brent to see if they are coming out here this summer. Hope you had fun with Annie in Missoula! Love you! xxoo
PS – that Quinoa sounds YUMMY!!!! thanks! I’ll be making a Light – Lasagna for this week…if you’re done with the rice and beans I’ll stop by and get my container so I can fill it up with lasagna!
Jana, don’t know if I responded to this or not. I’m getting a little more “with it” now. The past 13 days have had lots of ups, lots of downs, and some meltdowns – which I’m learning to accept – but I’m starting to notice improvement. Anyway, I’ve kept a lot of emails that have come in and am reading them through again; this is one of them.
I love how you write, how you reflect on your father, life, your daughters, time, even sharing a recipe. You’re a special friend.
We go to the doctor on Monday for the post-op appointment. Anxious to hear what’s ahead and if I’ve made the kind of slow progress he expects. We’ll see. I’m still pretty much bound by the walker and have, as yet, no desire to go anywhere away from home. I expect, hope that will change soon.
In the meantime, keep on writing. I always look forward to the next “chapter”.
Oh, yes, tell me about Hadley’s job! How exciting.
Love you, Faye