On January 4th, 2008 at 8:46 a.m. Brea and I fell in love with a fat, little red headed, blue eyed baby boy. We were thrilled to have our first and only son. Today, is Jacob's 8th birthday. And, today we are filled with mixed emotions. We delight in the memories we had with our happy rambunctious son. At the same time, we walk with a sinking feeling in our stomach because today is one of those concrete reminders of our loss.
But, before I totally bum everyone out - I want you to know I feel so blessed and grateful to be Jacob's daddy. I'm incredibly proud of what his life has inspired and to see how people have given of themselves and their resources to honor him. As his daddy, Jacob's life impacted me in ways I could have never imagined and I've been given the gift of perspective that most of us don't get until we experience suffering. So, today, on his birthday; I wanted to share some of the important lessons my son's life has taught me over the last few years.
Our legacy will be measured by the love we share and by the investment we put in others. No one is going to remember how many toys I accumulated, the hours I put in at work, or the title that came after my name. So much of our time and effort is focused on attaining some level of success that is measured in stuff, money, and power. If you asked me out of college what I wanted to do, I would have told you - "I want to make as much money as possible as fast as I can." That was my goal and money was my measure of success. It's an incredibly shallow and selfish viewpoint. Now, I would consider a successful life one that is focused on doing meaningful things, living with purpose, and making a difference for others. A couple of factors that have helped me move toward a more meaningful life are: 1. Making sure I foster and invest in the number of close relationships I have. It's scientifically proven you live a healthier life with a strong network of friends. Yes, friends are great to share the good times with, but they are even more important to have to help you get off the ground in the bad times. 2. Spending my time, energy, and resources on causes and charities that are important to me. Giving to, and being involved in, something outside of yourself can give you a tremendous sense of purpose. Trying to find fulfillment by accumulating stuff or power only leads to a life of temporary highs, stress, and a lot of disappointment. When I look at Jacob's life - I see the scores of people inside a standing room only funeral service; I think back to the time I was standing next to orphans admiring a picture of him on the dormitory they live in, named after him, in a remote village in Uganda; I think of the group of widowed Ugandan women who started businesses with money from the micro finance fund we started who told me they love Jacob and pray for our family. Even though Jacob was only 3 1/2, his life inspired love, hope, opportunity, and empowerment. That is a life well lived.
Don't be a victim of your suffering. All of us have (or will) experienced suffering, but the good news is we have the choice and ability to overcome whatever we've experienced. We must choose to NOT live as victims of our circumstances or pain. Honestly, I didn't know if I would be able to survive the loss of a child. It's excruciating emotionally, mentally, and physically. There were many times when I wanted to give up. There were times when I thought it could end our marriage. Yes - there were times when I felt sorry for myself. We all have some suffering that can get to a point where we feel like the world, or God, is against us and life isn't fair. I have felt this way. The question that helped me choose to find healing was this: "How do I best honor Jacob with my life?" Is it by living a life steeped in bitterness, resentment, and self pity? Or, is it by figuring out how to find joy again and by living a good life. The answer is pretty easy, but doing the work to find healing is not. Jacob was one of the reasons that I decided to make the choice to NOT let my pain and grief define who I am. We are made up of more than just one disappointment, bad choice, mistake, or tragedy. We all have the choice to get off the ground. We just have to choose to do it and start taking the incremental steps by putting one foot in front of the other towards hope.
You are good enough. For most of my life, I've worried what other people thought about me. We all struggle with insecurities to some degree. But, it has really been an issue for me in the way I act and the way I treat people. When you boil it down, there is one question I whisper to myself that generates this fear in me - "Am I good enough?" If someone says something to me or does something that makes me feel insecure about myself, then I get scared. I go into defense and protection mode. This fear then turns into anger towards the other. Honestly, I still struggle with this a lot but I'm learning that the antidote for this is love. Love for myself and love for others. And, even love for people I don't get along with or like. When I think of Jacob - I remember how much he loved people and how much they loved him. The innocence of a 3 year old has taught me a lot about how I should be as an adult. Unlike adults, toddlers aren't sizing each other up and comparing their lives to other 3 year olds. They aren't trying to measure up to some imaginary level they've imposed on themselves. They aren't hiding and pretending to be someone they're not so they fit in. The key for me is to first know that "I am enough" - just the way I am. That allows me to love myself and accept who I am, faults and all. That confidence that I am "enough" then allows me to be more vulnerable and loving towards others. I would rather live a life being open and loving, risking getting hurt and disappointed; than to live a life full of fear, anger, and stress.
Even though Jacob was only 3, I'm thankful for the time we did have with him. I'm thankful to be his daddy and I'm grateful for how much love he showed me. On his birthday - may the gifts that my son has given me be a gift to you as well.
One of the reasons I started this blog and I'm writing a book is to raise further support and awareness for the orphans we work with in Uganda. Two things you can do today to help me with that are:
1. Sponsor a child in Uganda. We have 15 more children in our program that need to be sponsored today in Rubanda, Uganda. You can click here to sponsor one of them. If you'd like to donate monetarily to a project we're funding click here and click on the "Fund a Project" button.
2. Share this blog via Facebook or other social media channels you use.
Thanks for your help!
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