William, William, and the Beautiful Sadness of Summer

Update: Last night,  my beloved Grandpa William Joseph Rakers passed away. . Although he lived a long good life of 99 years, we feel a great loss. I wrote this five months ago and now as the leaves fall and the weather changes, it rings especially true.

Last night I went home and snuggled up to his namesake, my son, William Francis. My grandfather’s funeral will be on William’s first birthday.  Rest in peace my sweet grandfather.


I have a seven month old baby boy. Every day he changes. His thighs grow a bit thicker, his head a bit bigger, his smile a bit wider, eyes a bit brighter. What started as a blip on a black screen is now a twenty pound ball of laughter and energy, a source of constant joy, love, and activity.

After a particularly hard day or night, my wife reminds me, “The days are long but the time is short.”

And the time is short. He will be walking before we know it. He will be talking before we know it. Though I type now perpetually tired, I know that one day I will long for one more minute, one more moment, to hold my tiny baby boy again.

You can already see how much he’s changed in seven short months.

Summer reminds me of impermanence, the fleeting beauty of life. Here in middle America USA, school is out and summer has begun (calendar be damned!). Children shriek around pools and playgrounds or sulk in bitter boredom in their front yards. Trees explode with leaves, birds abound and the bugs are just beginning to bite.

After two weeks of rain, everything is so alive it’s almost suffocating. Weeds and wheat grow together and everything blooms: bird, tree, squirrel, dandelion, flower, weed, human.

It is a fertile time. A time of life.

And yet, it is also fleeting, even here at the beginning of June. New flowers bloom and others droop. Today’s beauty is thrown in the lawn bag tomorrow.

Birth blossoming. Death decaying. Impermanence.

This used to be a cause of great melancholy in me. As summers faded I felt almost betrayed that the good things don’t last forever.

But now, I think there’s something beautiful about it. Like the grass in the field, we too will flower and fade. How much more beautiful is our blooming when we know that one day it will end? When we know our lives, no matter how productive, will one day butt up against the hard reality of time and age?

I too was a little baby once. I too the child of parents who wanted me to stay small and sweet forever. I too grew. I too will fade.


An old proverb says that we begin life grasping, with closed fists, and life teaches us, by the end, to open our hands in reverence.

Summer. It teaches me about beauty, about new possibilities, about hope. Knowing it will fade, as will I and everyone I know, teaches me to let go.

I took my son William (aged 7 months) to visit his great grandfather and namesake William (aged 99 years, 2 months) on Memorial Day.

My grandfather talked about his grandfather, also named William, and how he loved and admired him. It mirrored my own love for my grandfather, and God willing, maybe it will also mirror my son William’s love for his own family.

The beautiful sadness of summer is knowing that all things grow and all things die, but none of us have to go through it alone. It is happening right now to everyone and everything: none of us are immortal, none of us are immune to the birth pangs of time.

Our lives are short, as are summers. But when the beautiful sadness of life opens our hands, we might find it is easier to hold onto each other.

Me, William the Younger, William the Elder. Memorial Day 2016.

One Comment Add yours

  1. sally sanem says:

    Wow – you captured life at its beginning and its ending in your words and pictures. Looking at it through the eyes of time in the summer of our lives you made me look more deeply at how precious it is as we pass through it and to enjoy and experience it as it enfolds. Your pictures speak volumes and your words relay the depth of your feelings. Thank you Michael!


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