On November 1st, 2019, the world lost one hell of a man. I was blessed enough to be able to call this man my father-in-law for almost three years before he passed. We all wish we could have had more time with him, but this is true of any great loss. Now that we’ve had a little time to process everything that has happened, I wanted to share my tribute to a man many people loved, and the lessons I learned from a life well-lived.
My husband and my mother-in-law are learning to get through life without their best friend, and I’m doing all I can to support them through it. Meanwhile, I’ve had the pleasure of sifting through old photos and hearing various memories; and I can’t help but think what an amazing ride his 84-year journey here on Earth was.
“Will you still need me, will you still feed me; When I’m sixty-four.”John Lennon & Paul McCartney
The Beatles may have looked ahead to the year they’d be 64, but 84 sounds pretty good to me.
I hope to live as fulfilled a life as my father-in-law did.
Well-Lived Life Lesson #1: Treasure the Moments
My husband’s father never went anywhere without his camera (he never had any interest in a smart phone). If he saw something he liked, he would snap a picture. When they moved to the mother-in-law house at our place, I was delighted to find out that he had boxes upon boxes of old slides.
I never did get to watch the slides with him, but I always enjoyed seeing what he would take his photos of. After he passed, my husband told me about a website his buddy from the Navy ran where the guys could share their stories and photos. I checked it out and, to my delight, found dozens of photos he’d taken of the planes and helicopters during his time with the Navy.
Lesson #2: Love Your Family with All Your Heart
He wasn’t a lovey-dovey type of personality. There weren’t a lot of “I love you”s or hugs being thrown around. But my father-in-law had an incredible knack for showing love in small ways.
His only son was his absolute pride and joy, and he brought him everywhere with him when he was a child. When I came into the picture, he accepted me into his family, no questions asked.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from his well-lived life was how he had this way of making you feel like you were the only person in the room when you walked in. Anytime I went to visit, his eyes would light up, and he’d say “Hi, Amanda!” with so much joy in his voice, my heart would just about burst.
Lesson #3: Share Your Family’s Legacy
Dad was always sharing stories from when he was younger, and stories that his dad had passed down to him. My wonderful mother-in-law was smart enough to have him start telling those stories into a tape recorder years ago.
I love knowing that we’ll have those recordings to share with our own children someday.
Lesson #4: Keep Loving Dogs
I will never forget the pure joy on his face, the day he met Bentley. The two of them became fast friends, and whenever they were together, Bentley would just hop right up into his lap. The day he went into the hospital, as we were leaving for the night to go get a little sleep, he told us how much he wished Bentley were there with him.
As I’ve been going through the old photos, I’ve been thrilled to find some with my husband’s childhood dog, Frisbee, and some German Shepherds from my father-in-law’s childhood. One of my favorites is an old black-and-white photo of my father-in-law probably around the age of 12, with his brother, his sister, and a dog that he is hugging.
A life with the love of plenty of dogs over the years is a life well-lived in my opinion.
Lesson #5: Take Pride in Your Accomplishments
My father-in-law was a man of huge accomplishments. He retired from a large company in our area after well over 40 years, and he retired from the United States Navy where he put in his active duty years as well as several years in the reserves.
He wasn’t a man who spent a lot of time bragging and letting you know all about his accomplishments. But he did have service awards and medals displayed around the house.
After reading some of the letters accompanying the awards from his company, and letters he’d saved from the Navy, I’ve come to the conclusion that he was successful in his endeavors because he took great pride in all he did, right from the beginning.
Lesson learned from a life well lived: Never do anything part-way. Take pride in all that you do.
Lessons from an 84-Year Life Well-Lived
Abraham Lincoln said “in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” I intend to live my life to its fullest and take these lessons learned from a life well-lived to heart. So, when I’m 84, I’ll have a beautiful life to reflect upon.
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