A life lesson legacy

The most beautiful picture I have of my father and me is one in which we sit together on an airbed in the water. My father looks straight into the camera and gives the photographer a cheery smile. He is paddling with his arms, one leg dangling on each side of the airbed and his bottom sitting half under the water. Young, strong and happy, in the prime of his life and undoubtedly with high expectations for the future, blissfully unaware that this future only would last little more than a few months.

I am just three years old in the photograph and yet I sit across him like a real little lady, one leg stretched out, the other one slightly bent and my hands resting flat on the airbed on either side of my body. With a hint of a smile on my lips I watch the paddling motion of his arms closely.

A few years ago, when I moved to my current home, I hung up this picture in my bedroom and, without giving it much thought, in such a way that I look straight at it when sitting upright in bed. It was only when I started looking at it more closely that, bit by bit, I began to understand that through this picture my father left me an important lesson for life that I would badly need many years later. 

The way this little girl is sitting on the airbed, she is completely lost in the moment, without reflecting on where she comes from or where she is going. Here and now is all there is; the past and the future don’t exist. Protected by her father on the airbed, she feels completely safe and has no worries whatsoever about what might go wrong; she is probably not even aware of the existence of risks or danger.

It was this outlook on life that I had to rediscover a few years ago, when my life changed substantially and everything seemed to be upside down. I had to learn again that life isn’t about the destination, but about the journey, and that I just have to go with the flow, without looking back at the past or worrying about the future. I had to remaster the art of being in the here and now, enjoying each and every day and finding joy, harmony and love in each moment and experience. I had to regain my ability to let go of the strings, release my fears and have faith in life. 

At the time my father was of course not aware of the power of that moment, but now, almost 50 years after he passed away, he still inspires me every day. Every time I am about to get dragged down by concerns about the past or fears for the future, he looks at me from the picture frame, almost winking, reassuring me that all is well as long as I just let go, focus on the present moment and surrender to the tides.