My Dad’s Legacy

april 18, 2018

This morning I traveled to watch my sweet nephew play his very first game of soccer. We weren’t going to miss this for the world. Uncle Bibi and Aunt Jeni arrived, camera in tow, sporting a small blue thermos to give to Levi in honor of his first game. After all, that’s how all the big boys do it, right?

He couldn’t have looked any cuter in his mini shin guards, tall socks, and soccer shorts. As if I’m not already so proud of who he is growing up to be, my heart suddenly swelled so big. I just LOVE being his aunt.

My sweet nephew. Born at almost 9 pounds, he’s always been a bit on the “sturdier side”, a pretty solid little guy. But as we’ve watched him grow, we’ve realized that his rough & tumble exterior houses a super-sweet, sensitive little boy with a huge, tender heart. Oftentimes people mistake him as the kind of kid that will just run over anyone in his way; but he’s been perfectly created to have the best of both worlds. A tough exterior with a soft heart.

About a half hour into practice, a routine game of chase went a little awry, and Levi became scared and upset. Tears running down his face, he immediately ran to the sidelines to his daddy. Daniel scooped him up, took him away from everyone, and sat down on the sidewalk next to him, making sure he was ok. I sat there and watched as my brother comforted my nephew, consoling & protecting him, yet pushing him to continue to do what he knew he could do.

I kind of got lost in the moment. Because all I could think about was my dad.

I watched as my brother carried on my dad’s legacy…right in front of my eyes. And when they were done talking, he took his son’s little hand in his, walked him back to the field, and encouraged him to get right back in the game. And guess what? He did. Not because he wasn’t scared any more, but because he knew his daddy was there. His daddy believed in him…and that was all he needed to know.

The rest of the game continued on without a hitch. Levi followed the mob of three year olds as they chased the ball around the field, and we stood on the sidelines, just as proud as we could be, cheering on his every move. But I knew that while this was just an everyday moment for many others, for me it was bittersweet.

After all, I thought about my dad the entire time. I thought about how much he would have loved to see this, to be a part of all of this. How proud he would have been, not only of Levi, but of Daniel as well. How rewarding it would have been for him to see the lessons he had taught his own son, being passed down to the next generation. He would have stood on the sidelines with a huge smile on his face. He would have hugged us and told us he loved us. He would have been one proud Papa.

The last few weeks, rather than get easier, it’s gotten harder somehow. I’ve found myself struggling to remember the man he used to be. I lay awake at night, haunted by the images of his final days and hours. Although we were blessed with many special moments, it seems that lately, all I can remember is the quick & painful fade of one of the strongest and most vibrant men I knew.

But today, as bittersweet as it was, I also got to see his legacy live on, one small moment at a time. I saw it in the gentle way my brother comforted Levi…I know exactly who he learned that from. I saw it in Levi’s eyes, when he would scan the sidelines to make sure his daddy was watching. I saw it in the protection that my brother provided my nephew, the same protection and that dad always provided to us.

While my heart literally aches to think of the days ahead and what he will miss, I cling to days like today, where I see him live on in those most precious to me. I know that he will live on in brave mother, my amazing brother, my incredible nephews, and even my own child some day soon.

His life, his legacy, makes mine more beautiful. And he will live on in me, too. I’ll make sure of it.

@ jeni.aohphotography

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