I don’t usually include fiction stories, but decided to use this story about a Dad and his daughter to illustrate the importance of living each day in the present moment. Enjoy.
Heartbeats of Time
She laid her head on my chest and listened to my heart beat, thump – thump – thump. Counting the beats out loud, she said, “One, two, three, four, five.” She stopped, looked up and said, “Daddy, your heart beated 5 times while I was listening to it.”
I smiled and looked into her soft brown eyes and asked,
“Why don’t we do an experiment?” She smiled back enthusiastically, “Ok.”
I said, “Here, take my watch and see how many times my heart beats in one minute.” Pointing at the watch, I said, “Start counting when this longer, second hand gets to the 12 and keep counting until it makes a full circle around the watch. You think you can do that?”
She nods with smile.
Gently placing her head to my chest, she pressed her left ear tightly to the sound of my weakened heartbeat. Holding the watch close to her face, she focuses on the ticking of the clock, careful to count every thump. She begins counting, quitely, smiling through her numbers.
I look down my chest and see her soft, satin skin, her button nose and the wispy curls on her head. The sound of her sweet voice massages the stale, cold room. I hear her counting, “12, 13, 14.” I know that this count will be over too soon. She will reach a minute of time passed and look up with her snaggle-tooth smile and proudly exclaim the answer to the experiment. I know how many beats my heart thumps in a minute; the doctors check my heart rate everyday, in fact, multiple times a day.
She knows I’m sick, she knows that Daddy has to live in the hospital; she knows that the piggyback rides, the horseback rides, the tossing in the air, and foot races through the hallways have stopped. She hopes that I will one day do those things again. She’s since settled on reading books together and playing games when she’s here. But she’s smart. She knows it’s not normal or not right that each day I get thinner and sicker and more tubes are hooked up. I see it in her eyes. The ways she looks at me when she walks into the room. She takes inventory of the new wires, machines, new nurses and doctors, she sees my eyelashes are gone and my hair never grows back. She knows deep down that all is not well, but the life behind her eyes tells me its ok. She’s ok. I’m ok.
As I look at her head pressed against my chest I think of the things I’ll miss. These sweet moments of curiosity and adventure, the times that I will never see her learn to dance or dress up for prom, or graduate, or walk her down the aisle. She has her whole life ahead of her. Before the tear in my right eye can well enough to stream down my face, she bounds up exclaiming, “Daddy, it was 50 beats.”
I smile, “Wow, 50 beats!”
She runs out of the door into the hallway and I hear her tell her mother that she completed the experiment, saying “Mom, did you know that daddy’s heart beats 60 times per minute?! I wonder how many times my heart beats?!” Their voices trail off as they walk the hallway together, a ritual that my precious wife has adopted to cope with this unexpected event.
They don’t come back into my room for a while, but I am left thinking about what a sweet moment in time I just had with my Ava. What she doesn’t know is that my heart will stop beating soon. It will be zero beats per minute and her little heart will break with sadness as she comes to fully understand that she will no longer have daddy to play with, to read with and talk to. She will have to trust that although she can no longer count my beats, that the precious gift of time is now being fully revealed to me.
Eternity has been a concept that I had a hard time reconciling this side of life. However, I’ve come to understand that eternity doesn’t fit into our framework of time on Earth – with past, present and future, all nicely categorized into separate chunks of time to classify our life’s events.
No. Time and God are not synonymous at all. There is only the Present. The Now, the moment in front of us, right here – there is no past or future or even a forever, there is just the Now.
I get it. My hope for my little girl is that she would understand this concept long before I did and know that each day, although packaged in a linear line of time, is meant to be experienced moment by precious moment. Instead of counting the beats of her heart per minute, may the beats be one continuous thump as a reminder to live life boldly, for the sake of knowing the present moment is all that really matters.
In a note that I will leave behind,
“My Dearest Ava
Slow down and take time to enjoy each moment of your life. Live in the present.
It all slips away far too quickly.
See you very soon, My Princess.