My father-in-law, Nelson Hawkins, was a blessing in my life for so many reasons.
Even during the last few years, things between us didn’t change. Nelson continued to send me Mother’s Day cards, birthday cards, and Christmas presents–something no one would have expected him to do–yet he never stopped treating me like a daughter-in-law, and that was such a blessing. That was just his way; Nelson was always thoughtful with the people in his life.
As much as Nelson’s unconditional love for me blessed my life, the biggest blessing was in the example he left all of us, especially these last few years. Nelson truly showed us how to live.
After his heart attack a few years ago, most people would have slowed down and settled into a comfortable, sedentary life–but not Nelson.
This year alone, at 76 years old, Nelson went to Pasadena, CA for the Rose Parade and Charlotte, NC to drive the track and go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. About once a month Nelson went to Nashvilles (a country bar in Henrietta) to dance the night away. He was a member of the Broadway Theatre League and went to a play every 2 or 3 months. Every month, he traveled somewhere for a concert; most recently he went to Buffalo, Canandaigua, and Long Island. And of course, Nelson was in Homestead, Florida for a NASCAR race when he died. Meeting Jeff Gordon was on Nelson’s Bucket List and he was one day away from watching his NASCAR hero race again.
But that’s not all. Nelson had a full schedule for 2016: Daytona 500 in February; Kissimmee, FL in April with his sister Joyce; Buffalo in May for a Carrie Underwood concert; and Watkins Glen for a NASCAR weekend in August of 2016. It makes me sad that he won’t get to do all the things he planned, but it makes me happy that he was living his life and doing what made him happy.
Nelson’s life embodied this poem:
This is your life.
Do what you love, and do it often.
If you don’t like something, change it.
If you don’t like your job, quit.
Stop over analyzing; life is simple.
All emotions are beautiful.
When you eat, appreciate every, last bite.
Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people;
we are united in our differences.
Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.
Some opportunities only come once; seize them.
Life is short.
Live your dream.
Nelson lived his dream; he taught us that every moment of our lives is worth living. Nelson didn’t sit around, waiting for his life to end; he died living.