Rocky Road and Rainbows: Losing a father and appreciating life

Feb 13, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

I lost my father before I even had the chance to know him. Although I have no real memories of him, he managed to leave me with the greatest gift a father could give his child.

Practicing Gratitude Nichole Beaudry

The top was down on my father's convertible the day he died.

My mother remembers clearly that the warmth of the sun cut through the chill in the May air in Maine that day.

My father was 26 years old when he died.

I was just two.

I always wondered what traits I inherited from him. Did I have his sense of humor? His ease in a crowd? In what ways did he shape the person I am today?

As it turns out, though my father didn't live to see me go to the senior prom, earn any of my degrees, walk me down the aisle or meet his two grandchildren, he did leave me with one tremendous gift... the ability to savor the small moments. To drink them in because life doesn't make us promises.

Learn more about living your best life>>

Memories... or a lack thereof

I have no memories of my father. All I have are memories of being told stories from those who loved him most.

When I think about the years leading up to my father's death, I wonder if he ever took his time with a single scoop of Rocky Road, his favorite ice cream? Did he savor the saltiness of the nuts, the airiness of the marshmallow and the richness of the chocolate?

Did he lay in bed late at night and truly listen to the sound of the crickets outside his bedroom window? Or did he think he had a lifetime ahead of him for all of that?

There is a sliver of time in the afternoon where the sun shines through the shower in my master bathroom, where the glass fractures the light and casts a rainbow onto the floor.

Perhaps five inches long, the rainbow is vibrant and clear, each color blending seamlessly into the next.

And each time I catch sight of that rainbow, it makes me smile.

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Small moments

When I slow down to see those small moments, I do it for my father. I do it because he didn't have the opportunity.

I do it for my two children, so that they will learn to appreciate the gift of those small moments.

And I do it for myself, so that I can one day look back and know that I found endless beauty in life and that I was grateful. In the easy times and the tough times.

We can never know what life will hold, so I will walk slowly in freshly cut grass, stop to smell every lilac that I pass, inhale the smell of my freshly-bathed children and listen to the Dave Matthews Band with my eyes closed. And I will know that I have truly lived.

Won't you join me?

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