I have been in my feelings today.
July 22, 2020.
Today is my son Samuel’s birthday. He is my firstborn and the one who made me a father. This day always brings mixed feelings for me. It is certainly a day of joy and celebration. Samuel loves to spend his birthday with just our family. We usually have a party, he tells me what he wants me to put on the grill or the smoker, and we might play a game or watch a movie. In most years he will get together with friends to celebrate on another day, but on July 22 he prefers only family.
But this is also a day where I feel some measure of sadness and apprehension. It’s a day I am reminded that time moves on, often at a pace that outruns my emotions. Instead of recalling all the birthdays we have celebrated with him in our home, I begin to wonder how many we have left.
Today is 17.
I remember the night Samuel was born. He was long past his original due date and Kerrie had been on bed rest for a few weeks. He was taking his time. We were nervous new parents, not sure what to do or what to expect. We were checked in to Northeast Georgia Medical Center anxiously waiting. We were old school back then in 2003 and did not yet know if we were having a boy or a girl. I had a feeling though. He finally made his arrival, but not without complications. I remember standing in the delivery room, realizing that I had a son. I was worried about my wife, so I couldn’t yet celebrate. I remember the delivery doctor calling in the NICU nurse and our pediatrician to work on a few things with Samuel. I remember standing off to the side just watching them take care of my new son.
Soon after, I made my way to the waiting room where our families were patiently and anxiously waiting our news…it’s a boy! We celebrated together and I remember giving them an update on Kerrie. I don’t remember much of what happened over the next few days in the hospital, but I remember taking Samuel home to the little house we had just built. It was out in the country near a chicken farm. We had prepared a room for Samuel, but since we did not know what we were having, I had painted the walls green and yellow!
There’s not enough time and space for me to recall all the moments we have shared together the last 17 years. Even when he was an infant, we did everything together. I remember watching our first Georgia game together in August of 2003 when he was only a few weeks old. Since then, we haven’t missed too many games. A few months after he was born, we moved to New Orleans. Most of the time we were there I was traveling. Every other weekend Kerrie and Samuel were able to go with me. We would fly from NOLA to Nashville. He was such a quiet baby and a great traveler. We moved to Nashville not long after and Samuel and I had lots of great opportunities together. We attended Vanderbilt football, baseball, and basketball games. We would take off many weekends and head to Georgia to watch the game with family or head to Athens to attend the game. Samuel loved sports and he loved being there. He studied the game and always knew what was going on. One of our favorite events during those Nashville years was going to watch the Predators hockey team. I remember his little Predators hockey sweater that he wore to all those games.
Samuel loved sports so much as a little boy and he loved jerseys. He wanted to be on a team so bad just so he could have his own jersey. When he was 4, he played in the Nashville Youth Soccer League. He was so excited. On his first team, he had his heart set on being #3. When the coach gave out the jerseys, someone else got the #3. He was crushed and he cried so much that the coach felt bad and gave him the #3. He wore it most every night after that. He has played on a lot of teams since then and if you asked him, he could tell you every jersey he has worn since Nashville soccer; and he could tell you his number.
My favorite college football memory with him was the first Georgia game we attended together. He was 7 and it was the 2010 Georgia vs Louisiana-Lafayette game in Athens. It was such a fun day together. Another game I remember was the Georgia vs Auburn game in 2013. The game was in Auburn and we were sitting with our Auburn family in the alumni seats. We were the only Georgia fans in that section, and Georgia was about to win with less than a minute in the game. On 4th and 18, Auburn threw a hailmary pass that was tipped by a Georgia defender right into the hands of the Auburn receiver. He caught the tipped ball and scored to give Auburn the win with just seconds left. Samuel was so distraught that he couldn’t stop crying!
When I think of our years together, I can remember many early Sunday mornings that Samuel went to church with me. Those were long days, but he so enjoyed helping me and being a part of the church. My years serving churches has been a joy, but I missed some birthdays and ball games over the years. Many summers I had to travel to speak at camps or lead mission teams to other countries. I had seasons I carried much guilt from the days that I missed, but Samuel was always so forgiving and has never been down on church. He has been a great support and help to me for most of his life. Even now, most Sunday mornings he is running the live stream at Community Bible Greenwood.
When I reflect on his life, I think about all those years of little league. He has always been competitive in everything: soccer, football, baseball, and basketball. I coached his teams for many seasons and enjoyed those moments. The phrase I have said to him more than any other phrase as his coach and his dad is “control your emotions!” He has never lacked passion and has always been a fierce competitor. I love watching him play. He is a great teammate and a hard worker. I have enjoyed being a part of his journey as an athlete. I have thrown too many pitches and batting cage balls to count, thrown passes in the yard until my arm hurt, and rebounded what seems like a million basketballs.
He has always been my best hunting buddy. The first time he went with me hunting was deer season in 2007; he was 4. We loaded up the 4-wheeler in the early morning darkness. He was so layered up in warm camo he could barely move. He had a toy rifle over his shoulder. He slept most of the morning on the floor of an old box stand. He saw some deer that morning and has always loved the woods. We have spent many hours together in deer stands and in the woods. He has a great eye and he is a great hunter. Always safe and always alert.
To be honest, I am still not sure how to feel about this time in his life. I think about his future and look forward to seeing how God uses him these last few years in high school, and as he prepares for what is in front of him in college and beyond. I know he will succeed and will be a great man.
But I also have moments that I want to go back to those years when he was a little boy. I miss those times when he wanted to go everywhere with me. He loved it when we would go somewhere and not tell mom!
For now, I will simply choose to be content. I will rest in the joy that Samuel brings into my life and I will choose to enjoy every moment. As a dad, I have learned the discipline of delighting. To delight is to feel joy and happiness because of another. More specifically, it is a settled joy that is found in who someone is, not in what they do. To delight is to experience contentment simply in the life of another.
This is the emotion I am choosing. I will delight in the son that God has given me. I will enjoy him for who he is and for what he means to me. I will think of all that we have shared and experienced together, and I will delight. I will look toward the future and prepare my heart for more.