I was 11 when my dad died. We had a distant relationship already, and I don't remember feeling devastated when he died. I do remember that devastation creeping up on me as an adult, taking many shapes across my life so far.
We used to collect X-Men cards together. It was a bit of an obsession of mine, and more importantly, it was one of the fear endearments I still allowed him in my grieving anger. These X-Men cards were one of the few places we could predictably connect.
Some time before his accident, he gave me his treasure trove cards to "hold onto" for him. I spent hours in those cards. There are 276 of them, and I scoured each of their faces and every plastic sheath in which they were stored.
Because I had imagined a fantasy in which my father left little messages for me tucked behind the cards somewhere. I searched for anything that had him in it. Every once in a while I would come across a post-it note with his handwriting, but the notes just reminded him to buy missing cards. There were no hidden messages.
Because my dad didn't expect to die.
What is emotional life insurance?
After my wife and I were married at the ripe old age of 21, one of the first things I did was get life insurance. I may have been the only graduate student in my program without children who had a life insurance policy.
I remember being obsessed with securing life insurance because my dad didn't have any. I remember thinking how my brother and sister's lives could have been so much different had he planned for all possibilities.
When my wife and I was discovered she was pregnant, it was on the heels of a miscarriage. The positive pregnancy test was a sober joy, so close was it to harsh reminder that all life can be lost, without explanation.
Loss is a hard teacher.
And for this reason, I knew that financial life insurance wouldn't be enough. As an adult, I would have traded any life insurance policy if my dad had hidden a few notes behind my X-Men cards.
Losing my dad without much to hold onto taught me that one of the greatest gifts we can give those we love is a tangible collection of our love for them. So that they never have to question.
Letters, pictures, keepsakes, tokens. All stored in a tightly bound leather journal.
The one I keep for my son is about two years old. It started the day his mother told me she was pregnant with him. I don't write in it as much I would like. But I come back to it on days like today when I'm reminded that life is so unpredictable, that any moment could take me away from him.
If something terrible happens and I'm gone tomorrow, he'll never remember me. All he'll have is what I've left for him. And though money secures a future, it does nothing for a broken heart.
So write to those you love. Keep memories in tangible form and store them away as treasures to be rediscovered at a point later in time, with or without you.
Don't wait a single moment to make sure that the people in your life know you're nuts for them.