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Do not take special moments for granted

I never really had a father, so Father’s Day always sneaks up on me.  To celebrate it this year my three girls, one of my sons-in-law, and my three grandchildren gathered at my house over the weekend.

The house was filled with food and fun and talk and laughter.  Who is reading what book? My son-in-law and I discuss what book of the Bible we are into.  The distaff side gathers in the kitchen and produces some of the finest food I’ve ever had, while the men impatiently wait, stomachs rumbling.

But in the middle of a thousand special moments, I had one that I wanted to share with you.

Sadie is my seven-year-old granddaughter.  Spindle thin, with coltish legs  and brown hairs, she’s whip-smart, and can talk at a thousand creative and interesting words a minute.

The whole family had been outside all day, swimming, enjoying the wonderful weather, cutting a watermelon that my sister-in-law and nephew dropped by to share.  It had been a good day. And it couldn’t have gotten any better.

Except it did.

As the day wore on, people became tired or hungry or in need of some quiet, and one by one, everyone went inside.

Everyone but me and Sadie.  She wasn’t ready for the day to end and she conned her mother to let her stay outside “Just ten more minutes” by explaining that “Papa will stay out with me.” 

Going inside meant baths and pajamas and bed. It meant that her day was over.  She wanted to draw it out as long as she could. I did, too.

She was born to a Papa who shares her love of twilight.  My favorite part of a summer’s day has always been its ending. 

The wind calms, the whispering of the leaves stops, the pale stars begin slipping into their allotted spaces.  Of a moment the earth and all that is in it seems to pause, to take a deep breath,  to ease into its night time rest.

She and I were leaning over the edge of that old pergola that I need to replace when suddenly her eyes brightened up and she pointed toward the creek and cried out, “Look Papa look!  The fireflies. I love the fireflies.

They are out and playing!”

She and James, her younger brother, my middle grandchild, had been out catching fireflies the evening before.

You cannot be—you should not be—a child, especially in the South, until you’ve caught fireflies.  They are slow and gentle and calm, and if you catch them they reward you with a quick glow as you release them.

“Papa, oh Papa, they are closer now. Look!”   Some had gathered by the small play house that is about half way to the creek. 

“Can we go down and catch one, Papa?”

She and I have long been co-conspirators, not unacquainted with trouble;  but I had a plan.

“Let’s wait a minute. I bet they’ll be right to us.”

We waited. 

Within a minute we were surrounded by them.  They flew, and she spun and  she danced and she turned and she laughed with  the pure joy that only a small child experiences. For just a moment I got to experience it, too. 

And for those few minutes, I was the luckiest man on earth. And I knew it.

As she nimbly caught and released them, shouting “Papa! There’s another one!  Let’s catch it, Papa!”, I thought about summer’s evenings that happened just yesterday in the slipstream of time.  I was outside with her mother, a small thing who was curious about everything and who loved to spend time with me. 

In my mind’s eye I opened the book of her life and I saw her outside at our old house catching fireflies.  A page turned and she was in first grade.  Another page and she was in junior high. 

The pages began to blur by and I saw the first day she drove away from me in her first car, and how I almost died with pride, fear, and a sense that she had begun to not need me.  The pages flipped faster, almost mocking me with their speed. 

Suddenly she was a high school cheerleader, then a high school graduate, then a college graduate, then she introduced me to the man who is now my son-in-law, and then Sadie was born. 

I grabbed the book and stopped the pages.

Sadie took my hand.  Enough time had passed that we had been summoned inside by the powers-that-be, and she finally relented. “Papa, we don’t want to get into too much trouble.

Let’s go.”  We walked toward to steps that would lead us away from this evening and into the house. They looked a mile high to me.

It was June 20, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Every day after this one just got shorter.

As we got closer to the steps an airplane flew overhead. “Papa, stop!  Let’s look at the airplane. It has blinking lights. Do you see the blinking lights?” 

I was glad for the delay. I didn’t want that moment to end. I wanted to cast it in amber and preserve it for all time, to live in in forever.

She was still looking up. “Papa, I bet its going to France or to Paris or to Michigan!”

As she was looking up at the airplane, my gaze went just to the right of it. I was looking for God, asking Him, to stop time for just a bit, to not let this wonderful time end. 

I told Him that I knew it wouldn’t be long before her pages would turn and she’d be off doing something else, not wanting to spend time with her old Papa.

I didn’t think I could bear that.

I didn’t hear any audible response from God.  You see, He’s heard me pray that prayer before. In fact, I’ve asked Him for the same thing with all three of my girls, each more precious to me than I could ever tell. 

But He never granted those requests. That isn’t how He works. But I did remember that scripture that tells me to number my days, and knowing that they are numbered, to use them wisely. 

All of the wisdom I could muster right then was to not take this special moment for granted, to be thankful for the pages I’ve been allowed to be a part of.

The plane passed.  The night was coming on.

That sweet child reached up and took my hand, ready to lead me inside. “Let’s go in Papa. Do we have any ice cream?  Are you okay?  I want vanilla. Do you want vanilla, too?  Do you have something in your eye?

Yes, Sadie, yes I did.

Come to think of it, I think I have a little something in my eye right now.