A little Buddha on my dad’s desk

I discovered something this weekend that took my breath away. My mom, brother and I spent Sunday afternoon going through my dad’s office – the first time we’d been there since his passing one short month ago. We sifted through piles of papers, squinting to make out his scribbles. We eyeballed a thousand books or more. We collected awards from his career and mementos from our life as a family.

Tucked on one of his shelves was a stack of day planners from years past. I sat in his chair, flipping through the days gone by. When I landed on a page he’d titled Celebrations, my heart skipped a beat.

Throughout the year he’d carried around that planner, he had returned to this page multiple times to write down accolades from others and notes on projects he felt particularly good about, from a standing ovation following a speech to a great planning day with team members. In planner after planner, I found brief but meaningful Celebrations pages, all in my dad’s handwriting, from the late 1990s on. Some early lists only have 3 or 4 notations, but he got better about recording more compliments and professional highlights as time marched on. Thank God. My dad made lists about anything and everything, but it’s such a surprise and relief to me that he made ones like this, jotting down little glory moments to quietly affirm his own light in the world.

It’s something we really all should be doing, each keeping our own Celebrations lists: a private treasure trove of moments in our life that feel meaningful, purposeful and affirming. I have kept a folder of kind emails that have touched me over the years, but I haven’t kept a handwritten list like my dad did, intentionally noting a job well done or a compliment that filled up my heart.

Rather than an exercise in self-absorption, I think this practice enhances our awareness of how we impact others and what lights us up from the inside out – a visual and visceral reminder of our sparks. Each scribbled-down highlight becomes another stepping stone in our life’s path, engraved with reminders of where we’ve been, whom we’ve touched, what fills us with delight, what motivates us to move forward.

I’m starting my Celebrations list today and hope you’ll try it, too. Thanks for inspiring me yet again, Dad.