"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?"
So begins one of my all-time-favorite songs, “Seasons of Love”, from the play “Rent”. It is so beautiful musically, but more than that, the poignancy of the lyrics brings tears to my eyes every time. How do we measure a year, a life?
As the self-appointed planner of my dad’s 90th birthday party, I could not wait to use this song as part of the celebration. I contacted my very musically talented niece, Meredith, and pitched my idea. How about the whole family sings this song to my dad at the party? While generally on board with the plan, she did tell me, in her kindest way, that this song is really a little more meant for a person who has died or is dying. I sure didn’t realize that, but I was willing to go along with someone smarter than me. When Meredith proposed we rewrite the lyrics to more accurately reflect my dad’s life, I wholeheartedly agreed, and promptly made it her assignment.
So, how does one measure a life? The original song’s lyrics suggests that we measure it in love. So, Meredith solicited opinions on what Chuck loved so that she could incorporate them in the new lyrics. Things like bike rides, golfing, and skiing. Singing and laughing. His daughters, his grandkids, and most importantly, his beloved wife, Jean.
My family is spread far and wide. So, all I could do was email the lyrics to folks in Minnesota, Colorado, California, Tennessee, and Montana, and hope for the best. Meredith found a soundtrack, and each family contingent was given a part to practice.
On the morning of the party, all the daughters, the sons-in-law, all but two of the grandchildren, and the future grandsons-in-law assembled. We practiced (and prayed silently) that we could pull this off.
As my friend, Mary, often says, we are responsible for the effort, not the outcome. Because this performance required hours of preparation. And the outcome? Well, you can be the judge of that. But if life is measured in love, then our lives are looking pretty good.
Take a look: Seasons of Chuck by Wegner Family Singers
After we sang, my dad gave a little speech, in which he said, “When you’re young, you think about succeeding. You wonder, how do you succeed?... Do you succeed because you make a lot of money? Have a big house? You drive a good car? Nobody really tells you what it means… When you get to be 90 years old, I can tell you what it means to succeed. It means that you have friends to love, and you have friends that love you. It means that you have family to love and you have a family that loves you. If you look at me, I am a great success.”
Measure in love.