Dear Gabi and My Unborn Children…
Dear Gabi, Jude, and Noah….
(A letter to my stepdaughter, unborn and yet to be adopted son written ten years in the future as an exercise in gratitude/potential/hope/ and a hard copy of my thoughts about the world for them to read)
If you are reading this letter it appears something in life has happened to me. As I sit here today and write this, I’ve lived long enough to know that tragedies can come at any time in our life, and I wanted to take some time to make sure you knew a few things about life from my perspective. Some final parting words from your old man…
At the date of this writing, Gabi you are entering high school. A gift, miracle that came into my life ten years ago when I had almost given up being a dad.
Jude, we adopted you two years after your mom and I got married and by now I’m sure you get tired of hearing that story and all the “dad” talks about what it means, but one thing I know for sure, as you read this, is that you know you are “my son” and always will be.
Noah, after wondering if your mom and I could have kids of our own you arrived when we least expected it. The baby of our growing family. Sunniva and I’s dream the first week we met, was to create a microcosm of the world if we could, to be able to raise you three with equal love. A chance to show the world that family isn’t about who’s tummy you come out of, where you’re from, it’s about unconditional love. A family is a group of people who learn together, grow together, challenge each other, and who will support each other.
I wrote something specific for each of you that are in sealed envelopes in a lock box at the local bank. This letter, I wanted your mom to read to you, with all of you together. You know I’m a man of drama, and I just wanted to make sure you were there to hold each other, laugh, and cry with the support and love you are so filled with.
One thing I wished my grandfather had done, an instrumental man in imprinting some things to me the last ten years of his life, was something like this. I’m only 48 and your grandparents are all still alive, and knock on wood you won’t read this for another 20-40 years, but just in case… I smile and sleep a bit better knowing it’s tucked away if life would create something we could not have planned for, or expected, that would take me from you too soon. Remember that I will have “transitioned” to the other side and likely will be in the room with you right now… When you feel that cold sudden burst of air or a sparkle that doesn’t make sense, it might just be me…
Life is like that kids… Hold no grudge to whatever happened to me. The car of the other driver, the cancer, the misdiagnosis. Whatever it is, just know it’s “as it should be.” Cherish the time we did have, no regrets on time we didn’t.
As you know through my hours of boring talks at bedtime, car rides, and plane trips around the world, and any chance I could use to reach you (whether it be playing catch, drawing, doing homework, or if it felt important enough calling you into my office) life is about the journey, not the destination.
You are special kids in every sense of the word and have taught me more about myself than any class I took, business I started, or leader I have had the privilege of working beside.
It always sounded cliché, but you and your mother are my miracles. My reasons for living. My chance to learn everything all over again, and see the world through your eyes.
Now, some final advice from dear old dad…
We’ve spent a lot of time traveling the world and got plenty of chances with you to “teach” about cultures, people, there differences…but more importantly about how we are all alike inside.
I never saw any of you three as different, and I think in many ways you changed people’s perceptions on a lot of things even as younger kids. Just by being you, many family and friends have already changed preconceived ideas, and then they get passed on, and then they get passed on to others and that’s how this game of life works in the “Pay it Forward” sense.
1) Never forget that you are all three my kids. We learned about Gabi’s heritage and celebrated it every year with her Norwegian roots, we learned about how skin color is just a pigment in the skin and you listened to me talking about the history of mankind and how it spread out. Being a family with different colors, just means you are brighter than the rest, literally. You made me so proud more times than I can count. The first time Gabi got in the face of a bully at school who asked why Jude’s skin color was so dark and that he COULDN’T be her brother, I’ll never forget that afternoon and how your arm, dear Gabi, was draped around him in a protective way, and the black eye the bully got with one punch in the face (that you never told me about but a neighbor “bragged” on how you handled it) I never brought it up to you guys because that situation handled itself, and you guys seem to be able to do it with such grace, time after time.
2) Take a stand when it resonates in your heart. You guys are young today, and I have no idea how old you’ll be when/if you read this, but there are times in your life when it’s okay to toe the line. You guys are confident, strong, and born leaders. People listen to you and as you grow older, use this gift for the good of the world. Speak out about things that matter to you. You won’t embarrass your mom or relatives and if you do, who cares… LISTEN AND TRUST YOUR HEART.
3) Keep remembering that “service” is what makes your heart beat stronger. I know it was a pain in your ass when we took you to the homeless shelter one Saturday a month, but it was meant to show you that sometimes people struggle for real reasons. We don’t judge them, we just want to help them in ways we can and realize that we are not better or worse than anyone on the planet. To my surprise, after only the third visit you guys were reminding me that it was our day to help. This was yet another day I had to leave the room to not let you see me crying like a sappy dad because of how proud I was of you. Never forget the power of “serving” others and what those Saturday’s taught you
4) Do something nice for somebody and never tell a soul. Yes, it’s a rule we talked about a lot but DON’T FORGET IT. Don’t tell a soul, not even your mom. It’s nice to do good things and get rewarded for them, but the best rewards come from doing it for no other reason than you care to help somebody. Humility is something you guys were reared to honor and my god, did you honor it.
When you live in a town like we live in now, I have to admit the parents and teachers do talk a lot, and it was often bragging on you guys doing things for others and if someone noticed…making them swear to not tell anybody because they knew about the “code.” Many nights when you would come in and mom and I were whispering and tearing up, it was sharing a story like this we had heard about you with each other.
5) You are showing the planet the “One World” ideology we wanted to impart on you by “being” you and just the physical aspects of our heritage. Continue this. The world is at a time of change, a time with many conflicts. This is something that doesn’t appear to go away, but remember that we are all tied together…..what somebody does on the other side of the globe in subtle, energetic way, effects you guys. Fabrics on the blanket of humanity. Teach this concept to your friends not by “preaching” but by continuing to just be you. The greatest gift of awareness you can bring is to just continue showing the world who you are…
6) Appreciate the differences in your extended family. They are real people with real problems just like everyone else. As I got older, I slowly realized the fact that everyone is unique, and if we see the world like Buddha taught us, “Everyone in the world is enlightened but us” they have something to teach you. Listen to the elders. You are blessed to have grandparents, aunts, and uncles all over the world. With respect and deep curiosity, listen to their stories, continue to travel to their home lands and with loving eyes show them your heart. Learn, everywhere you go. You’ve already changed the lives of me and your mom deeply, your grandparents are far from the people I met ten years ago because of this unique tribe we built with the three of you miracles. The power of how many you can effect is tremendous.
7) I’ve said it since you could speak, but never forget this. Chase your dreams! Don’t let failures hold you back. The only reason Solgave became the success that it did was through a lot of life failures, through some tough times, but a belief that your mom and I had so strongly that nothing would get in the way of us achieving our goals.
We wanted to build something you could be part of, possibly take over one day, but never feel pressure to do so. You have changed hundreds, if not thousands of lives already through this project that was your mom and I’s dream. Chase your own though! If it’s being a doctor, an actor, a mom, or an astronaut…. have no guilt, have no fear of what others may think of you because what the world really needs is more people doing what they love to do. Find a way to make your passion your work and then it’ll never seem like a day of “work” in your life. I was insecure about chasing dreams when I was younger, some of your grandparents are “practical” and that’s a good thing for a variety of reasons, but I want you to not fear being impractical at times. Most of the people who changed the world were deemed crazy, impractical, and delusional. Until… They achieved that dream.
8) Never give up on the idea of love. Ever. Somebody is going to break all three of your hearts at some point. You may get married, divorced, or never choose to be married….that’s okay, but I know your souls and I know you. Like me, one who yearned to find love, and did. NEVER GIVE UP ON IT. Not after failed relationships, not after heartbreaks, you’ll see them all as lessons at some point down the road.
Never, ever, ever give up on love. Your mom and I didn’t and that’s a big reason you guys are all together.
9) Forgive. People will upset you. They will let you down in life. Always forgive them eventually, know they are facing some kind of battle or they would not have hurt you in the first place. Try to extend your arms out as I see you doing already if at all possible, and if not, know you tried.
10) Spirituality. You were pretty blessed to be raised with so many unique perspectives around you. Sunniva and I always told you that whatever path you decide to take is your path. We tried to open your eyes to as many perspectives as possible, by visiting churches of all religions, the trip to India to spend time in an Ashram, our time in the jungles of South America, etc. Realize that some people, even some of your close friends or family members, may have views that appear to divide or be so very different than yours, but never forget that most threads weave us together. Be respectful of all views and if anything, remind them of that thread that connects us. We kept sacred texts of all types around to show you we were open, as we continued to learn ourselves. Remember that if you judge the weird relatives that might believe something you think is crazy, we then are playing judge. Just smile and laugh inside. The world has a lot of ideas on how it came to be and we tried hard to make sure you knew no one has a lock on that answer. We believe, the lock is around your ankles. That truth is within you. “Know thyself” is engraved on a stone I gave each of you on your 5th birthday hoping you would keep it for life. The most profound three words that sum up every spiritual path I’ve studied. I wished I had learned to meditate more and work yoga in more frequently before I hit 40, so if you want to get ahead of the curve a bit on the Zen wave…..follow that advice for sure.
11) Do some things once in awhile as you age to remind yourself what it’s like to really BE ALIVE. That may be skydiving, hiking Everest, cliff diving, attending an open mic’ night, or just learning to downhill sky for the first time. Whatever it is, find that. Our day to day lives can sometimes provide a pace where we forget that feeling, that rush and feeling of BEING ALIVE remind us that the stressors of the grind in life are not that big a deal.
12) If any of you grow up to be gay, know that I am proud of you. It’s a cause your mom and I fought for early on. Some social causes just resonate with you, and this is one that did for Sunni and I from the time we met. If you have gay friends, family members, or are yourself – don’t be shamed into living a life that is not you out of fear. Hopefully, if I did my job, that fear won’t exist. Chances are you’ll have a friend, family member, or know somebody who is. Some people quietly accept them as “different’ but you know they aren’t. Use that confidence, courage, and communication skills you have and if it resonates with you, take a stand. The world needs more people taking stands. I’m proud of you guys and will be forever… not for your sexual orientation, color of your skin, or the clothes you wear, but the impact that have already made on the world, and how much you’ve changed my life is impossible to quantify.
To sum things up… Kids, I want you to work hard. I want you to play hard. I want you to remember the stories I told you about my own life and the lessons I learned along the way. If the book “A Beautiful Mess” is out, then that filled in any gaps you might have wondered about my own life.
Our past is the past, but it can sometimes be a springboard for the type of future we carve out. You don’t have to make all the mistakes I made. You don’t have to open every metaphorical door to find out what’s behind there. I hope in some way I did that for you… Seeing you guys grow up I find comfort in knowing that maybe that was my purpose for a decade or more of feeling lost, misunderstood, and alone.
Look out for each other. Watch out for your mom. She is strong, caring, and courageous… Already changed the world with her “gifts” but she’ll age at some point too. Stay in touch with her after you leave for college. Remember that nothing you’ve done should ever prevent you from fearing to pick up the phone. And if she falls in love after my passing, accept and love the new man as I would want you to. Life is about living, life is about having somebody to share it with. I would never want her to grow old alone.
Be proud of who you are. My legacy is you three kids. You are the gifts that I get to give back to the world. Down the road your own kids will be your legacy. We can change the world by changing who we are. I hope you understand all those rants during our Sunday morning “church” hikes that I tried to just imprint that into you so heavily. Such power and ease in knowing we change the world by changing us.
You three, along with your mom, reminded me why I was put on Earth. You three brought me the greatest joys a man could ever know. You three, changed my life forever.
My hope is that you don’t read this letter until I’m in my rocking chair, playing with your kids and all gathered around playing Frisbee, laughing about the old days, at a family cookout somewhere your mom and I decide to retire. By then this advice may seem less relevant…
Life is short man. It can be taken in an instant. Wake up every day grateful for that breath of air you are breathing in, the little things around that make you smile. Never lose that optimism about the world you have. You don’t have to grow into somebody who is jaded, pessimistic and full of fear about the state of the world. You can change that, by continuing to just “be you” and shine a light that will be seen all over the world.
I love you for every second I got with you, every song I got to sing at bedtime, every sporting event, every play, and yes, I loved you every time you yelled at me for being too “lame” or “strict” ….us dads do the best we can with what we’ve got and try to do it a bit better than the generation behind us.
Your mission is now to up the ante and go further than I did, dream bigger than I did, and raise kids with an even deeper sense of love for this planet, a real hunger to “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon seem inevitable.” – Christopher Reeve
With the deepest love I never thought I’d find,
Your dad, Jared