My mom never had a diamond in her wedding band—just a simple gold band on her slightly crooked ring finger that I have watched grow leaner over the years. What used to be plump, unlined skin is now delicately thin—exposing veins like twisting rivers along the back of her hand.
Yet, the gold band remains unchanged.
As a child, I can remember being bothered by the fact there was no diamond in my mother’s wedding ring. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I remember repeatedly suggesting to my family that we all pitch in and buy her a diamond. But my mother’s response was always the same: “That is not what is important to me.”
And it wasn’t. My mom would rather spend money on making memories rather than on material items. In fact, “diamond money” became funds for a pop-up camper that housed our family over a decade of summer vacations. Together we explored picturesque canyons in the Southwest and majestic mountains in Canada.
More than a luxury car, an extravagant home, or a closet full of clothes, my mom loved to see new sights with her family.
One sight that we never quite made—probably because pop-up campers don’t fair well in Alaska—was to see gray whales meandering in shallow coastal waters.
Well, I am thrilled to report that in a few days, my mom’s dream of seeing a whale in its natural habitat will come true. And she will not be alone. Beside my mom will be her husband of 50 years, her two daughters, and her two granddaughters.
The most important people in my mother’s life will be standing beside her when she sees this magnificent sight—one that an inquisitive little girl from a small Midwestern town never thought she would see.
After we see the whales, we will seek warmth and shelter and begin our celebration. Along with a cake that reads “Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary,” there will be this special album.
Contained within its pages is a collection of heartfelt messages about the impact of my parents’ love on a multitude of lives. It’s the kind of words people hear at a funeral—the kind of sentiments people wish they had said while their loved one was alive. But this will be no funeral; this will be a celebration of the most wondrous kind.
I can’t be certain how my parents will react to seeing the whales or to hearing the tributes in the memory album, but I soon will … I will. Because I will be there … fully there … soaking in every expression, every emotion, every momentous detail.
And I am certain of this because I am leaving behind my distractions for this one.
That’s right. Seven days.
No laptop, no phone, no blog postings, no “Hands Free Revolution” updates, no article submissions, no interviews, no comments on the blog, no email responses … not for those seven days that I am with my family in the place my mom has dreamed of seeing her whole life.
I feel silly even admitting this—but since it is you, I will.
A few months ago, I worried about these seven days. I wondered if this lull in my communications to my “Hands Free” companions would somehow alter or disturb this beautiful community that has evolved.
But as I watched this community explode over the past few weeks and have read message after message about the changes you are making to let go of distraction, I remembered exactly who I am talking to when I share my journey. I remembered exactly who it is that comes here each week to read my struggles and my triumphs with daily distraction.
And you, my friends, come here because you want to be inspired to let go of distraction to grasp what really matters. If I can’t do that for seven days, then I really shouldn’t be the one writing these posts. I also realized that if anyone would understand why things are quiet around here next week, it is you. And I thank you for that.
But then something else happened—a revelation that confirmed my choice to be fully present, distraction-free for seven days. It happened as I prepared the anniversary album for my parents.
As I organized the collection of stories from childhood friends, close family members, and long-time friends, one particular entry stood out. This note came from a woman who had met my parents only a handful of times—which hardly qualifies someone to submit a tribute to a 50th wedding anniversary album. But after joining my family on a trip to the Northwest, this woman had something to say about my parents.
And as I read her note over and over, marveling at the fact that she chose this particular memory and these particular words, I was certain of one thing: This message may have been written for my parents, but it was actually meant for me—and also for you. This is what is said:
“Your parents made me feel incredibly comfortable and welcomed me as though they had known me for years. It can be hard traveling with people sometimes, but I honestly felt like I just was an addition to the family for the days we were together — not a guest or a visitor — more like a long-time friend they were ready to spend time with.
I have one strong visual memory, no words to go with it, but just a picture in my mind. We were on a hike on a typical Pacific Northwest trail … old-growth trees, moss, chilly enough for a jacket even though it was summer … and I looked back to take a photo of a particularly lovely tree, and there they were standing side by side, staring at something beautiful, one of them pointing, just sharing a moment. Not having grown up with parents that shared many tender moments, this played my heartstrings, and I was touched. I think I actually took a photo of them enjoying this peaceful moment together rather than the tree.”
THIS is exactly what I don’t want to miss. THIS is why I don’t want to be distracted for seven sacred days. Because I know with certainty that if I am thinking about my next blog post, editing the draft of an article submission, attempting to respond to a text, or preoccupied by an email message … there is one thing that will slip right through my fingers: moments that matter—like the one this woman witnessed on the Pacific Northwest trail and so eloquently described.
I don’t want to miss these moments. And a phone, a distracted mind, and pressure to produce can steal them—steal them right from my precious memory bank. And believe me, I know all too well how easily priceless moments can be missed.
I have come to terms with the fact that I can’t do anything about the moments I’ve lost, but I CAN do something about the ones that are going to take place.
Because here is the simple, powerful truth—and this truth, when I stop and really think about it, rocks me to my core:
My parents are alive.
My children are alive.
And I am alive.
By the grace of God, I have come to understand this nothing-less-than-miraculous fact before my distraction almost cost me everything I hold dear.
And believe me when I say I now know when it is time to pay attention, open my eyes, and let the other “stuff” go; I now know when I am about to get the chance to gain something priceless …
You can’t admire them on your hand, but you can replay them in your mind until your dying day.
You can’t buff them until they shine, but their radiance shines brightly even when your body has grown old.
You can’t touch them, but you can feel them deep down in your soul where they heal you, comfort you, and save you from your darkest days.
The moments that matter …
And they are worth more than diamonds, gold, and all the money in the world.
And I am not willing to trade these moments that matter—not even for a blog post that goes viral, a coveted TV interview, or that celebratory phone call from a publishing house. Unlike these “things,” which will still be there when I return in seven days, the precious moments will be gone. Forever.
My eyes have been opened to what I couldn’t see when I was a young girl who thought the diamond was so important.
My eyes have been opened to the fragility of life.
The people I love are alive.
I am alive.
So please excuse me while I enjoy this miraculous fact. I’ve got some moments to collect—seven days worth, in fact.
And they will shine like diamonds on my soul.
Whether you are about to begin your summer vacation or whether vacation is merely a dream …
Whether you have a really busy work month ahead or whether your load is light …
Whether your family situation restricts your freedom or whether it is just you and no one else …
Despite the circumstances of your life, you have something going for you—and it is quite remarkable if you stop to really think about it:
You are alive.
You are alive.
So I am giving you a 7 day challenge: BE alive.
- Say the things you’ve been wanting to say—even if it is only a whisper
- Do the things you want to do—even if it is in your own backyard
- Take one step toward your dream—even if it noticeable to no one but you
- Hug the people that mean the most—even if your children give you weird looks
- Let go of that which has been holding you back—even if it might seem scary
- Disconnect from that which keeps you from truly connecting—even if you think can’t live without it
Because you can.
You ARE alive.
And this, my friend, is nothing less than miraculous.
While I am off grasping what matters next week, my hope is that you will, too, in the place that you are. Because beautiful moments can be found right in front of your face, right where you are, every time you let go of distraction.
If there was ever a time to pay attention, open your eyes, and let go, it is now.
*I find it comforting that in the last week, I have received several messages that read: “Please don’t stop writing, but don’t stop being ‘Hands Free.’” I am taking those words to heart. Thank you for being my companions on this “Hands Free” journey.
** If you are interested in learning more about the memory album mentioned in this post or wish to create a meaningful celebration for a loved one, you can read about the gift I gave my spouse for his 40th birthday entitled, “The Gift of a Moment.”