Don’t Wait Too Long

Ben-Melton-1998As I mentioned in my last post, my father died last month. The last few weeks I’ve become obsessed about writing family stories while digging through genealogy material and old pictures. I’m finding dozens of dots I never noticed before and discovering new insights with roots that reach beyond the Civil War.

One of the most touching things I’ve found is this emailed letter from my father that’s been lurking in my files for a couple of years. He must have memorized this piece. He recited it, almost verbatim, with a few new embellishments, the last time I talked to him, shortly before he died. I’ve been wishing I’d thought to turn on my phone recorder that day, but no matter. Turns out, I already had the transcript. I don’t think he’ll mind my sharing it as a tribute to him with a message for all of us.

Reflections on my life
Ben Melton, June 25, 2015

The most beautiful woman I ever met (1943):

Marjie in scarf

The most beautiful (the same one) woman I ever met, with me, 50 years later:

Ben & Marje, 50 years later

I’ve led a wonderful life. 

I married the prettiest girl. My children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren are good-looking, good-natured and brilliant.

I’ve had, and have some wonderful friends.

In a multi-faceted career, I’ve had some exciting, interesting and rewarding jobs.

I’ve shot the biggest deer I ever saw, caught the biggest salmon I ever saw, flown the hottest (in my day) bomber, and the biggest bomber, and done acrobatics in a fighter plane.

I’ve survived multiple encounters with the grim reaper in the air, on the highway and in the operating room.

Fortunately, I’ve had a few dull moments to round out the spectrum.

My life doesn’t owe me a thing.  It has already delivered more than I could possibly ask for.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because if I wait too long, I’ll lose the opportunity to express my awe and gratitude for a richly rewarding life!


Ben sigBen's Snoopy Plane


In that recent phone call he added, “I’ve done everything I was ever afraid to do except jump out of an airplane. I didn’t do that when I had the chance because I’d hurt my foot and was afraid I’d break my leg when I landed.” Reality-based fears like that are worth respecting!

At 187 words, this letter is a clear example of a mini or micro-memoir with a theme of gratitude. It’s also a love story and a celebration of life. It hints at obstacles overcome. It touches on triumphs with faint whispers of shadows, which he did not dwell on.

He wrote other stories too, but this is his capstone. It could have been his obituary if we’d remembered we had it. What a wonderful legacy he has left. I’m in tears all over again.

I hope this can serve as an example that less may be more. Pay special attention to his last words:

 Why am I telling you all this?  Because if I wait too long, I’ll lose the opportunity to express my awe and gratitude for a richly rewarding life!

It doesn’t need to take a lot of words. Now, get those fingers flying and write on!


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful man your father must have been, Sharon. With his words, you have a memory of him that will certainly stay with you.

How good it would be if everyone wrote such a summary of their life! I must do it myself. :-)

Amy said...

His words are so touching and must give you comfort, knowing that's how he felt about his life. Wonderful photos also.

Amber Lea Starfire said...

What beautiful words of gratitude and love from your father. You were fortunate to have such a man in your life, which must make losing him even harder. My condolences to you in this time of grief. I hope that memories of his love and your times together ease your loss.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thank you all for the kind comments. I do love that he put the best of himself in one place. Sometimes curmudgeon selves need a place to hide, and this sunny side is the image I'll keep framed.

ShirleyHS said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your father, Sharon, and am glad you had him in your life until such time when you could truly comprehend all that he said in this lovely short memoir.

What a life!

kathleen pooler said...

Sharon, I'm sorry about the loss of your father. His words are so precious and wise. Thank you so much for sharing him with us. His message is an important one. I'm glad you're writing your way through this transition period. I remember so clearly your supportive words to me when my father died in 2010. I found consolation in writing about him. Your father sounded like a wonderful man and now his spirit lives on through his words and yours.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thank you Shirley and Kathy. It's funny how things evolve. At first it seemed I would not miss him much, because we were seldom in direct touch. Over the past few weeks I've begun to realize how often I read a humorous email, or one on a topic I knew he was interested in and realize that I can't forward it to him! We were more connected than I realized, and definitely more connected than we would have been in the same situation fifty years ago.