"It is always surprising how small a part of life is taken up by meaningful moments. Most often they are over before they start, although they cast a light on the future and make the people who originated them unforgettable."
-Anna and the King
My great grandmother, simply called Nanny, was 90 years old the last time I saw her some 20 years ago. In fact, I can still remember our first encounter when I was a small child visiting Long Island many years past. Nanny lived in a small, yet spotless and cozy room in the lower level of my grandparents house. The only thing I recall was a portrait of Jesus hanging on the wall and a set of rosary beads neatly set on her desk top. The back of Nanny's her hands were soft, yet aged liked a fine sheet of paper. Paper is an appropriate analogy given that her hands alone reflected the stories of a life well lived. Nanny's eyes also told a story of living through two world wars, a great depression, and the witnessing of several generations of children come and gone. Her voice was a little shaky, but no doubt from the many stories shared. 90 years of life, and yet just a small stitch in the fabric of time.
Meaningful moments are hard to come by these days, yet they often define and shape who we are as people, and also the threads that intertwine the myriad of human relationships we experience. It is no coincidence that the greatest experiences a person can have on earth are centered around the celebrations of life, and the duplicity within the loss and gain of it. There's always a harmony. A balance. But, such is the case with all things. We are born, we die, we love, and we hate. We are all things that fall in between the distant poles of the latter. It's what makes us....well, us. Life, and it's meaningful moments are like priceless works of art. Their limited duration and terms of borrowed use are what derive the value. How many more sunrises will you see? How many more times will you lie on your back and gaze upon the clouds? Imagine a white Christmas with family, a child with sparklers on the fourth of July, or celebrating a baby's first steps. How many of anything do we truly have left? We frequently perceive life as an inexhaustible well of moments. But, it is not.
I was born in the port city of Busan, South Korea. Nobody knew what the future held. My sister was born several years later. Her first cries echoed in the hospital corridors, thus beginning a story that we could try to predict, but would never really know until it was lived out. Lived out in a series of meaningful moments. Mere seconds after her birth my sister was embraced in the adoring arms of my mother and father, both beeming as they ushered her arrival into this life. Hand in hand, this was their first dance. It was a moment where time stood still just for a second, because this particular place in history belonged to my family.
The years go by, and like winds sweeping over a desolate sandy beach, they take their share of dreams and hopes. Life doesn't go as planned, loved ones depart, but, like the rolling tides, the years also give something back.
Flashforward 28 years and 2 months. My little sister is now adorned in all white as she is about to walk down the aisle to meet her future husband. She is radiant only like a bride can be, or like a newborn person. Though the setting is a little different, it is a mirror image to her birth, but this time her it is her second life that she is about to embark on. Instead of receiving her, my parents are about to give her away in marriage. My father's hand is a little older, and his hair a bit grayer, but he holds my sisters hand again for the first time, and my mother looks on with the same adoration as 28 years before. The sun shines through the chapel stained glass, and it is truly one of the most beautiful moments I have, or will ever experience. We always knew this day would come, but when the day arrives you still find yourself saying "Is this day really here?" The moment takes your breath away because you've pictured it a thousand times in your mind, and yet no amount of imagination can prepare you for the real thing. When my sister walked the aisle, I saw all of our moments together. I saw my little curly haired sister running through the fields, playing piano, getting her license, and graduating from college. While everyone else saw one moment, my family witnessed them all.
...and yet, even the monumental nature of my sister's wedding ceremony was merely a one hour moment in our lives. Ask a person who, like my great grandmother, has lived say 70, 90, or even over 100 years. Even the oldest people on earth have lives that were most impacted by single events that lasted shortest amount of time. A birth, a death, an illness, a car crash, a wedding, a promotion, a family. One moment you are giving a best man toast, and the next you are making a funeral speach. From split seconds to decades, it is the accumilation of these individual moments that make up this thing called life. Moments reflect the past and cast a light on the future. We are all meaningful moments waiting to happen.
Let the father and daughter dance. In this moment.