It’s hard not to think about death. Cancer just took my baby brother at 50. I’m 55, a cancer survivor, and a two-time survivor of pulmonary emboli. My Dad, 82, wrestles with kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Up the street, a friend has an inoperable brain tumor. Last night, my mother’s best friend died of septicemia. Your life is no different. Same stuff, different people. On Big Bang Theory, when asked by Penny, “How is your life?” Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler replied, “Just like everyone else’s. Subject to entropy, decay, and eventual death. Thank you for asking.”
I’m not the only one wondering about how, in death, we can reach into the future. I was at Gander Mountain the other day, buying a pair of work pants, and I heard a song that I hadn’t heard for a while. Country singer Chris Young says “I hear voices all the time.” And he’s right. Give it a listen. Click on that link right now. I’ll wait.
And we’re back.
We work hard as parents to keep our kids safe, to give them a proper upbringing, to love them as hard as we can, and we all share the fleeting thought, “What happens to my kids after I’m gone?”
This begs the question, “How do we parent from beyond the grave?”
Herewith, five ways to ensure your kids will be fine after you’re gone.
1) Lead by example. Insist that character matters. Take the high road. Walk your talk. Choose any four. Yes, four. It’s that important.
2) Have that conversation. Talk about stuff that matters- Integrity. Passion. Love. Everything that makes for a well-lived life is often a tough conversation. Everything that gets in the way of the life well-lived is a tough conversation; drinking, drugs, the birds and the bees. Our sons need to learn how to treat women. Make certain they learn from you, and not some horse’s ass celebrity or athlete. Our daughters need to learn what makes for a good man. Make certain they learn from you, lest they end up looking for love in all the wrong places.
3) Don’t be afraid to beat a dead horse. If drinking has been a problem in your life, or in the family’s history, talk about drinking- over and over again. If there’s a family pattern of physical or mental abuse, keep talking about it- Again and again. Just make sure that when the kid says something, you shut up and listen. Nothing you do as a dad will ever be as important as listening to your children.
4) Love your spouse and kiss your children. However much you hug your spouse and kids, it’s just barely enough, isn’t it? One of the most important prayers in Judaism is called the V’ahavta. In it, Jews tell of the ways they shall love the Lord. Shamelessly, I rip off that prayer (Deuteronomy 6:59) and paraphrase:
You shall love your spouse and children with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.
Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Teach them to your children.
Love your spouse and children when you stay at home and when you are away,
Love them when you lie down and when you get up.
Carry the thoughts of your love for them everywhere you go;
Keep your love for them at work and at home.
5) Act like this moment might be your last. It just might be. Imagine that the thought you have in your head at the instant of death is etched there for all time. Is your thought one you’d like to share with your kids?
- My ex is bat crap crazy and I wish s/he were dead. No.
- If the Tigers relief pitching comes through, we’ll make a run at the pennant this year. Okay
- I’d like an ice-cold Coke Slurpee right about now. Better.
- Kids, I hope I’ve taught you to always do the right thing. There ya go.
You live your life according to these five precepts and I guarantee your children will hear your voice in their heads, long after you are dead.