Life is made up of so many tiny moments, the little daily interactions and chores that we go through almost subconsciously, that we often times miss the importance of them. There’s such a focus on the major life events - our wedding (or weddings, plural, in my case), graduations, the birth of a child - that we kind of miss the forest for the trees. Sure those things are important. But it’s the little things that make life beautiful. And it’s the little things that I think we’re going to be left with in the end.
I don’t know this for sure. It’s just my opinion. But I can tell you that when I was 22 and living in Florida I was driving home one day down Highway 98, a beautiful stretch of road that parallels the ocean when the car in front of me was suddenly hit head on by a truck. I pulled over and ran to the scene as quick as I could. I was scared to death, but I knew I had to help if I could. The truck driver was injured but conscious. The driver in front of me wasn’t so lucky. He was completely pinned in the car, encased in a metal casket, and he was dying. I held his hand and I prayed for him - with him. And the entire time he smiled. I knew he was remembering those moments of his life that were important or that just made living the amazing experience that it is.
That man didn’t live long enough to get to the hospital. To this day I keep his obituary pinned to my refrigerator. I remember the way he smiled - as if it had all been worth it. I try to smile like that every day. I found out he was a Navy medic and spent his life taking care of people in need. I bet he had a lot of amazing moments to remember in the end.
I know for myself that reliving these moments does happen. My mother use to tell me a story of a horrible car crash she was in. The second it happened time slowed to a crawl. She was able to recite the entire Lord’s Prayer and then think of each one of her children before the crash was over. In reality, or our perception of it, that wreck took only a matter of seconds. When I was stationed in Kosovo I found myself in a terribly dangerous situation where I feared for my life. I had to sprint across an intersection to safety. It couldn’t have been more than 15 yards. It felt like it took forever. I was playing out my whole life, what it meant, what I had done, what my value was, in just a matter of seconds.
Buddhists believe the kind of life you lead ultimately affects the kind of death you have. Maybe they’re onto something. I’ve seen people ravaged with cancer live, fight and die with dignity, determination and respect. They should have been crumpled up crying out in pain. Steve Jobs is example of someone who died, I think, remembering all the moments of his life. His successes, his joys. I know he also died with a smile on his face. His last words were “Wow!”
All these little moments add up. They make up the majority of our lives. And there’s joy to be found in each and every second of the day. I love waking up my kids and seeing their smile. I love writing articles for people to read. I love the way it feels to complete a task that might not otherwise be all that fun - i.e. the dishes. But there is even joy and comfort in dishes. You can find it in the serenity and repetition of a task. I’m spending each day finding more and more joy in everything I do.
There’s a scale in our minds and on one side is joy and on the other is negativity. You don’t have to look very far to find negative thoughts. We are surrounded by them. But the happiness and joy is there too. You just have to look. I’m finding it everywhere, especially in those little moments. That way I’m ready, when it’s my time, to go home with a big smile on my face as well.