As I sit in our rental cabin in Gatlinburg with the girls watching morning cartoons and eating cereal out of the little boxes that I thought were so cool when I was a kid, John is snoring in the other room, the fireplace is roaring away and I feel so inspired. We came on this trip because this is where my father-in-law Dave would bring us over and over again. It was a magical place for him and sharing his love for it made it a magical place for us.
He taught me more than anyone else that having money could be something incredible, not flashy, compassionate, not assuming, full of love, not jealousy. He worked hard his whole life to provide the kind of life he wanted for his children, he lived modestly and saved smartly. When he was older he was able to retire and when he retired he wanted to spend his time and money on enjoying life with his family. He could afford to take us with him on vacations that we could not and that gave us the most loving memories of just being together.
We didn’t take trips to the Bahamas or stay in fancy hotels or eat at 5 star restaurants. We usually went to Gatlinburg, stayed in a modest cabin in the woods, cooked meals together, enjoyed the nature, drove through Smoky Mountain National Park, talked and bonded as a family. We often take for granted that there will be time in the future for these kinds of things but Dave also taught me not to take anything for granted when it comes to time with your loved ones.
Dave passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly and the memories from these trips are some of my very favorite that I have. He gave me such a gift, so much so that I don’t think he could have known how much it would matter to me. When he passed away he left his children and grandchildren a legacy of love, benevolence, and an emphasis on family. He could have driven a fancy car, ate at expensive restaurants, worn the nicest clothing, gone on exotic vacations, or any number of things that people often desire when they have the money to afford them. But he cared more about his family and making the time and space to enjoy each other than he cared about those superficial things.
As a financial coach I speak to many people who desire all those flashy things that society tells us we should want. It was such a gift I learned early on that what is truly important is connection with others. When you are at the end of your life looking back on all the things that you designated as important by giving your money to it, you will not care as much about your fancy car as you will about the times you spent with loved ones, less about the number in your bank account than the love you showered on the people that matter to you.
Everyone is so caught up in the race to get the newest and nicest and most expensive everything. Then when the next version comes out you better upgrade to keep up with the Jones’ or more likely the Kardashians. This way of thinking will keep you broke or at the very least will keep you chasing an ideal that doesn’t matter, doesn’t have substance, and ultimately will not make you happy.
So thank you Dave/Daddy B/PawPaw for teaching me this important lesson and I will do my best to teach it to others so that they may enjoy life the same way you taught me by the example you lived.