Yesterday was All-Soul’s Sunday in the Anglican tradition, and for me, an opportunity to take my dad’s sage advice; focus on the marvelous in life. Traditionally it is a day to remember the people who have entered the larger life and to reflect on how their lives affected ours. It was no surprise that my dad was on my mind this weekend. This was my first All-Soul’s Sunday without him, and Wednesday will be my first All-Saint’s Day without him. I miss him.
One of the many reasons I miss him so much is because Dad knew how to focus on the marvelous things in life. His life was not marvelous all the time. He was born into the Post-WWI depression in Germany. The only reason his family survived was because they were pig farmers and therefore they had a source of food. His father left for the US in 1927. After a year, he sent for his wife and my dad, his only living child. After crossing the Atlantic in steerage and being separated from his mother at Ellis Island due to illness, the three of them were finally reunited. Almost immediately, the Great Depression hit here. He lived through that with lots of tales to tell, attended school speaking no English, but continued to thrive, make friends, graduate high school, get his citizenship, and serve in WWII.
Some earthly wisdom
As a child of this man and my mother, I watched him focus on providing for and raising four children. But even when times were tough for us, he always insisted that we count our blessings. If we complained about anything, we often heard, “This, too, shall pass.” or “Nothing that time and distance won’t take care of.” It’s not that he didn’t listen, but he quickly went to the big picture…the long arc. There were times when I heard, “You have no idea how lucky you are.” It was often said in a pensive way, as if he were remembering the kinds of times I really can only imagine.
Other ways dad focused on the marvelous
My dad was a lover of beauty and nature. He was happy admiring a beautiful flower, a newborn baby, or a colorful sunset . A big bag of fresh cherries or corn brought him joy. Sharing them with us made him happy. One time he came home from work and gave me a very contemporary lucite ring. He said, “I thought this was something you might like.” It was. Later in life when we took family beach trips, he was known to sit on the deck and exclaim, “What a life!” It was as if he could hardly believe we were all together and could afford to vacation at the beach.
The things that made us wealthy, according to my dad, were first family and then friends. He invested in his family and his friends. Parties and other gatherings were important, singing around the piano and dancing ensued. Our church family was a priority, and we all invested our time, talents, and treasures in that community. He and my mom focused on helping the youth and reaching out to others.
It’s the simple things
Dad didn’t use this phrase, but it’s what he meant. Focus on the simple things. Let the smile of a friend or the unexpected sunset make you happy. Fill your heart with a song.. Remember what’s important. Don’t get caught up in details that don’t matter. Eat with a friend. Open your arms and welcome someone in to your home. Make a difference.
You have no idea how lucky you are. So try focusing on the marvelous this week. My dad will be smiling down on you, too.
This was one of the last picture we have of my dad, wrapped up so that he could attend the wedding of one of his grandsons…just weeks before he died.
Amy Sander Montanez, D. Min., LPC, LMFT has a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. Her book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. Amy is passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com