It was a few days after Christmas, in 2008, and we were packing up the house my parents lived in for nearly 60 years. My mom had died four years earlier and my dad was unable to live there alone anymore. We worked for several days packing and shipping the furnishings around which we were raised. At one point, we got into a conversation with my dad about the amount of money he and my mom saved. Because they were both children during the Depression, they saved quite a lot of money. I remember asking him why he and my mom didn’t travel more or do more things. He answered me in the simple, clear way that was beautifully his own: “We did everything we wanted to do.” He would live four more years without my mom, and he and I spoke nearly every day. Many of those conversations were about routine, daily events, but I will never forget the answer he gave to that question. “We did everything we wanted to do.”
For both my dad and my mom, “…everything we wanted to do” did not mean giving in to pleasures of the moment. It meant they were able to do everything they could to honor the deepest commitments of their lives. They took care of one another, they traveled with us, their children. They did not give us everything we wanted but they gave us everything we needed. Simply put, they lived in a deliberate, intentional way, leaving out nothing that mattered. They “did everything they wanted to do.” The did not carry regrets. They did not nurse old hurts.
As I age, I hope I can answer that question we asked him, in the same way he answered it. I hope, for many of us, that our lives can be marked by a kind of generous deliberateness. I’m grateful everyday for the example my parents gave me– that if we life for the people and things we love, then at the end, we will feel nothing is missing, nothing has been left out. Imagine the peace of that kind of life. Imagine nothing but gratitude filling us at life’s end.