What every father can gift to their sons when they die.
After less than favorable results from a colonoscopy last week, I’m focusing on what I want to leave for my sons when I die. These are the five treasures I hope to bestow upon them.
A Sense of Abundance
What I have noticed is that parents often pass on to their children a sense of scarcity—a “money doesn’t grow on trees” mentality. I hope to gift my sons an awareness that money might not grow on trees, but an abundance of food, beauty, air, shade, and shelter does. I want my boys to see the cup as overflowing rather than half empty. I want them to be grateful for the abundance of wisdom, love, relationships, awe, beauty, and “mana” available to them at all times.
One way I’ve started to give them this gift is I’ve stopped saying, “we can’t afford that.” When my younger son asked, “Daddy, can we go to Legoland again?” I said, “Maybe. Let’s wait and see.” I never want them to think that something is not possible, because everything is always possible.
I have friends who are haunted by their parent’s lack of approval. Even if the parent has passed away, these adults feel guilty that they never lived up to the expectations of their fathers. I want my sons to know that I approve of them right here and right now.
They don’t need to do anything to win my approval, except be themselves. They don’t need to get any college degrees, make any amount of money, work in any profession, have any children, or give me anything. They just need to be who they are and express what they came here to express.
I love that they chose to be my sons. I am honored by how much they have shared with me. I am grateful for all the love they have given me since the first time I held them in my arms. They don’t need to do anything else.
The Hawaiian word “kuleana” means responsibility. It is used to indicate financial responsibility, family responsibility, communal responsibility, generational responsibility, spiritual responsibility, and environmental responsibility. I want my sons to know that even though they don’t need to win my approval, they have inherited my kuleana.
They have a responsibility to the land. One of the phrases that both my sons know in Hawaiian is “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono”–the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. My sons understand that if they are not pono (righteous) then the land will die. The have a responsibility to treat the land, the people, their families, their enemies, and their ancestors with respect, Aloha, and humility.
I want them to know that any conflict they bring into this world affects everyone and everything. I want them to take responsibility for whatever is arising in their lives and ho’oponopono it—make it right. I bestow upon them the role of guardian or in St. Francis’s words “instruments of peace.” I want them to leave the world a better place than when they arrived here. That’s all!
I have no doubt that my death will plant a visceral understanding of impermanence in my sons, but I want them to realize that the only constant in life is change. In the suffering, hardship, and grief that they experience in life, I want them to know that all experiences are temporary. On the other hand, I don’t want them to cling to their joy, happiness, and prosperity, because those experiences too will end.
Hopefully, they will never forget the wise words, “this too shall pass.” With this wisdom, they can fully embrace all life experiences without aversion or desire. I hope to role model this truth as I embrace my mortality.
My Eternal Presence
I have already told my sons that no matter what happens to me, I will always be there for them. They might not be able to see me or hear me, but if they sit real still and listen with an open heart, then they will know that I am there.
In Hawaii, they call spirit guides “’aumâkua.” My Hawaiian grandfather is my aumâkua. He often visits and guides me even though he died over twenty years ago. He speaks to me in dreams, memories, visitations, the clouds, and the wind.
I’m not sure what happens when we die, but I do know that I will always be there for my sons. I will try every means to communicate with them. I have tried to instill in them a sense of awe and openness that will empower this eternal relationship.
What is most surprising about this list is that nothing is tangible. We often think about inheritances as financial transactions. Luckily, I don’t have to worry much about these types of inheritances. Money comes and goes, while other forms of capital continue giving for lifetimes. I feel like my sons are in good hands if they are open to receiving these heirlooms that have been passed down for generations.