What matters most
I don’t know if it’s my growing older or my kids growing taller, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the next 30 years. God willing, that’s about the number of years I unscientifically figure I have left on this earth.
Once upon a time, that seemed like an eternity. But when I think about how quickly the first three decades of my life flew, I’m ever more certain the next 30 years will pass just as quickly. I can practically hear time ticking, and I find myself frequently wondering how and with whom I’d like to spend the rest of my life.
In the year before he died, my father-in-law would take my then 3-year-old son to a weekly baseball class. Afterward, they would go to the neighboring airpark to watch the planes take off and land. It was their thing, just the two of them.
My father-in-law and I were very close. I confided in him and loved him as if he were my own father. He was diagnosed in 2006 with lung cancer, which seemed so cruel, given that he hadn’t had a cigarette in 30 years.
He lived eight more months after his diagnosis. He was 70 years old. In his last days, he made sure to squeeze my hand and tell me that he loved me like a daughter, even though his son and I had already divorced. I will never forget that. Nor will I forget the last moments of his life. I don’t know what he and his wife talked about in private, but while I stood beside his hospital bedside, I didn’t hear him brag about the money he made as a VP of a major corporation. I didn’t hear him recount the places he visited. He didn’t talk about the fabulous dinners he cooked. He asked for his loved ones: his children, his siblings, close friends and extended family. He called out for his “babies,” my children, by name.
Often when I start to feel overwhelmed, I force myself to stop and think about that moment and how at the end of this very special man’s life, it wasn’t what he did in life, but whom he had in life that seemed to matter most.
Just a few weeks ago, my now 8-year-old son was listening to a country song about airplanes. My daughter said it was her favorite. My son said he liked it, but it made him sad. I asked him why. He replied, “Because it reminds me of Grandpa and how he used to take me to watch the planes after baseball. I loved that. I miss him so much.”
He was just 3 years old when they shared that weekly experience! But even at his young age, that precious little time left a poignant, lasting memory.
How will I spend the next 30 years? This I know for sure: I will do my best to create memories like those – the only sure thing, I believe, we can take with us.
Catherine Anaya anchors CBS 5 News weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 and 10 p.m. She is the mother of two, a marathon runner and motivational speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.