Life is Beautiful

I haven’t slept. For much of last night, my daughter Ava cried out in her sleep with nightmares. Eventually her cries would wake us both. Instead of going back to sleep, Ava would chat with me about her day. I wish I could remember all the amazing things she told me at 2:00 AM.

Around 3:30 or so, we were both asleep when our little dog Emile began barking to be let down from the bed. (He’s too small to hop down himself.) I groaned, rose, and set him gently on the floor; off he trotted to relieve himself on a Wee-wee Pad™ I’d left in the front hallway for just such a contingency.

Moments later we heard an unearthly shrieking. The dog has progressive, incurable, pulmonary fibrosis. The attacks come on suddenly and unpredictably (except that they often most occur after he has relieved himself in the middle of the night). His lungs stop pumping oxygen. He falls over, typically into his own excrement, and goes into what appears to be cardiac arrest. Uncanny shrieks testify to his terror and pain.

Typically I can bring him back by throwing myself on the floor, talking to him, and patting his ribs to get the lungs working again. I did this and my five-year-old was right beside me, helping, and asking if the dog was dying.

“He’s not dying,” I said, confident that this was not the moment. (And luckily, I was right.)

We cleaned the dog and put him back in bed.

“Dad, there are poopy turds on the floor,” my daughter said.

“I know, I’ll clean them in the morning.”

“Dad, there are poopy turds on the floor.”

“I’ll go clean them,” I said.

Around 4:00 AM the three of us cuddled up and my daughter carried on a delightful conversation, mainly by herself, for at least half an hour. Then we were all asleep. And then the 6:00 AM alarm rang.

Kids can keep you up all night but it’s all worth it. Domestic animals give love freely to the least deserving, but their lives are short and their ends are often brutal. And it’s worth it. It is all worth it. Every day, even a sad day blurred by headaches and filled with business meetings, is magical and infinite. This dance, this particular proton dance, will never come again. This tune we’re too busy to hear will not be played again. Never forget to be thankful for your life.

86 thoughts on “Life is Beautiful

  1. That was beautiful, thanks.

    I love the way my daughter can just wake up and talk about the stuff that was happening to her hours ago, in a perfectly chipper mood, it’s lovely.

    I read this today and it seems fitting

    “Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” Ludwig Wittgenstein

  2. Zeldman, you’ve said it beautifully man.

    As a still relatively new father (soon to be 2 year old son and a 3 month old son), it is crazy how you can thrive and enjoy these sleepless moments in your night.

    Just saw a speaker recently (David Irvine) who discussed “wake-up calls” and how they can be life altering. Make you work out, treat people better, work less, etc…and that typically people will forget about their wake-up calls after a few short weeks, sometimes days.

    You have to appreciate or deal well with what’s happening at that time (appreciate is probably a bad word if your pet is potentially dying in front of you and your child).

    Again, nice write up…good luck with the nightmares!

  3. La Vita e Bella! Molto Bella…

    We are here for a short while to make as many others happy, to love and to be loved. The rest is filler ….

  4. Amen Jeffrey.

    My 9-month old daughter has kept me awake at night at random times for the most of her young life. She doesn’t talk yet, and although it had sometimes detrimental effects on my day and my mood, I look back with love at those moments rockin her back to sleep.. I can only imagine what it would be like if she starts telling stories some day.

    Thanks for reminding me life is beautiful

  5. I couldn’t agree more.

    On another note. I recently saw a short video in which Jessica Hische was interviewed about attending conferences and tradeshows. In it, one thing struck me. She mentioned that attending said events connects the listeners to speakers because they get to know them on a more personal level. In doing so, in seeing that the people who they may look up to, or even think of as god-like, are just regular people, your own aspirations seem more attainable. It’s not a surprise that you’re in inspiration to many of us Jeffrey. But as I sit here reading this blog post, with DWWS bookmarked halfway through in my bag, I can’t help but feel inspired in a different way than I’m sure you originally intended.

    Stay thirsty.

  6. I was just thinking the exact same thing the other day – about each moment whether good or bad, will only last for that fleeting blip in time. I was trying to remind myself that whether it feels awful, or amazing, or just plain mediocore, I will only be able to appreciate it for that fleeting second. I was sort of on a kick of relishing the present. Anyway, this post made my day. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  7. Your life is beautiful because you have the spirit to love your daughter. That is why the life is beautiful for you. You made me smile and feel something warm in my soul. Thank you.

  8. I, like you, have found many beautiful moments in that place somewhere between asleep and awake.

    Shortly after my son Aiden was born, his father and I split up, and I went through one of the hardest struggles of my life. I barely slept then, so I would bring him into my bed, watching and listening to him dream. He was (and still is) a beautiful dreamer. He had vibrant dreams that make him smile, sometimes even laugh aloud.

    He’s nine now, and every once in a while asks me to lie with him while he dozes off. It’s rare these days, but when it happens, I stay up as long as I can and watch him sleep. I think of all we’ve survived together, all that we’ve overcome. I regret every day we’ve spent apart, and every day we’ve been together that I wasted. And just when I’m about to cry? He laughs. A big, hearty giggle from the gut.

    Even in their sleep, your kids remind you that life is beautiful.

    Keep finding those moments, Jeffrey.

  9. I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in “creation’s dawn.”

    -John Muir

  10. Don’t know how you feel about Paul Bowles, but you made me think of this:

    Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless. – Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

  11. Beautiful. I’m reminded every day that our children grow so fast and that life will pass you right on by if you don’t take the time to appreciate every last moment.

    Thanks for sharing and here’s to a good night’s rest for all of you tonight. :)

  12. Well done.. even more powerful because this isn’t typical fare on this website. If read on a personal development website, it would read like more content fodder. Read here, it reads like amazing.

  13. I hugged my kid. I smooched my pooches. I sat down to say life IS beautiful.

    I am thankful for the reminder. I am thankful for you, friend.

  14. Reading this confirms that you really must be a lovely, lovely man, Jeffrey.

    I’m sure I’ve said it before in a comment some while back, but if you ever find the time to write a book of short stories, I’ll gladly buy it in a heartbeat.

  15. I was putting my squirming unhappy one and a half year old into his car seat the other day and when I stood up I noticed that there was an older guy waiting for someone in his car who had been watching us. “That’s a lot of work!” he commented. I replied “And it’s worth every bit of it.” He heard that I meant it in my voice and saw it in my smile. Got the most amazed look on his face, and then he beamed back at me.

  16. Having lost my dog two years ago, and having been blessed with two new ones and a daughter in the same time period I can relate.

    Life is so grand.

  17. So why, why, why is this shit on HN? Wah, my dog has a neurological disorder, wah, but it’s so special, wah, wah. This is beautiful? You’re a fucking masochist. Go to hell. Are you some blogger with a fantastic fanboy following or… what? Did I miss the punchline?

    I’m in a terrible mood, take this with a heaping tablespoon of salt. OR. ALTERNATIVELY. Take it with whatever fucking pills people are taking that make them think this is worth upvoting on HN. WAH WAH WAH I’M PISSED OFF.

  18. Mr. Zeldman, you just brought tears to my eyes – thank you. My first child will be here in less than three months and I can’t wait.

  19. I watch my 16mo grandson and look after my 90 year old father. My mother who is 83 is in a nursing facility….

    You realize of course that by keeping you up Ava just wanted you, her dad. She knows who you are sans persona. That dude, is priceless.

  20. Dear Jeffrey

    You write so well and it’s a real treat to follow you on Twitter.

    I wish you, Miss Ava, and Mr Emile all the best.

    And a good night’s rest.


  21. Every moment you experience this sort of intimacy is a blessed moment, may your life be full of it.
    Life can be beautiful.

  22. Funny how much of our life experience is defined by our perspective of it. Thank you for sharing your positive perspective and in so doing encouraging the same from me.

  23. I want to come up with something profound to type. But you’ve said it all so effortlessly and beautifully.

    So all I’ve got is: “Thanks.”

  24. my daughter also mostly talks to herself while sleeping…..i am very touched by your post….thanks for writing…..

  25. It’s true, it’s all about perspective. Pretty soon your daughter will be 16 and too cool for Dad. Too cool for those late night chatter sessions, too cool to cuddle with… You got to enjoy these chaotic moments of innocence and purity that exist in a child’s eyes. Soak it in, and hope some of it rubs off.

    It is indeed ALL worth it.

  26. Beautiful post. I have 4 kids and know exactly the kind of emotions you were going through. More please.

  27. It’s great to see people enjoying moments like the one you have shared with us. Despite our defects and everyday mistakes, God blesses us with the ones we love and lifetime -we should- to spent with them. Never forget to be thankful for your life.

  28. Damn Jeff, this is beautiful. Thanks man!

    We’re currently having a seemingly hard time with our eldest son (3). He’s afraid of the dark and doesn’t want to go to bed at nights. But hard as the sceaming and wailing and crying is, I still enjoy it to be there for him.

    Your post expresses what I am feeling at the moment.

    All the best to your pooch – he can be happy to have you as owners.

  29. Thank you for sharing, these could have been my words over the past few days. To life, to dogs, cheers!

  30. Dear Mr. Zeldman, thank you for sharing such a touching story about your dog (and your daughter). Pulmonary fibrosis is a lethal disease, as you know all-too well, with no treatments and no cure. It occurs in humans, too – 128,000 of them in the U.S. The incidence and prevalence among terrier dogs is likely similar. It is especially common in West Highland Terriers, Westies. The Westies Foundation is involved in research in the disease and there is a white paper expected to be published soon in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (a human medical journal) regarding the disease and how helping the dogs may also help the humans and vice versa. If you’d like to learn more, please visit and Best, Teresa Barnes

  31. What’s beautiful here is the effort and love you’re putting into taking care of Emile. Ava is your daughter, and we humans are expected to take care of our children. But when a companion animal becomes difficult to deal with because of age or disease, too many people decide to put them to sleep. Yes, Emile has to endure scary, painful episodes with his disease, but he also gets to snuggle into bed with you afterward, warm and safe. Thank you for saving him off the street and providing such a wonderful home for him.

  32. Irony.

    Just today, I tweeted that DID NOT want to talk to anyone because it was a waste of energy, better used in more important tasks.

    OK. I stand corrected.

  33. I enjoy reading about your life. This was wonderful, thank you for sharing it.

  34. You have used strings of words with an eloquence I’ll never be able to match. And you perfectly illustrate my current cosmic state. Thank you.

  35. My own (sometimes needy) 2-year-old son taxes my attention, and when I feel the irritation rise I remind myself of one important thing: I will miss this when he’s grown.

    My wife and I nursed a cat with renal failure for five whole years (pretty good for a cat with poorly-functioning kidneys). “Nursing” was poking a needle under the skin of her back and letting 100ml of saline solution drip into her. Every night. For five years. When she finally gave up and started getting sick in earnest, we had her put to sleep. And last night I realized; I don’t have any photos of her.

  36. Yesterday my 7 year old son accidentally left the water running in a bathroom sink, which ended up flooding the adjoining rooms. Today there are work crews ripping apart flooring and baseboards and insulation throughout my house. I paid a sizable (for us) deductible to get the work started until we hear from an insurance adjuster. Previously, this would have caused me grief. But you know what: life is beautiful. Accidents happen. Floors get flooded. Walls get damaged. Repairs cost money. But nobody here is suffering and life is beautiful. Here’s to life!

    Thanks Jeffrey.

  37. Thank you. I have had many nights very similar to yours. Our previous dog had a similar condition which led to many nights spent holding him. Toward his end about the only time he could sleep was in my lap. And our son is five so we’ve had many nights up with him as well.

    I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Except I wish our dog was still with us :)

    I’m thanking you because this little reminder to enjoy it all is very timely for me. I’ve been down lately, in a rare bit of depression, and I think this has helped me remember and realize just how precious it all is.

    Thank you

  38. Really touched me, indeed! I like the last paragraph very much.

    It tells me (as so often): Appreciate life – in all its facets.

    Thx for sharing, Mr. Feldman!

  39. Righteous on many levels. This little tidbit refreshes my memory when I ask myself, “Why this??”.
    PS, Hello, Newman.

  40. Mr. Feldman (sorry…couldn’t resist). Love your writing (and speaking. met you at AEA Chicago ’07). Life *is* beautiful and how fortunate you are to be able to touch so many lives with your words.

    Thanks for sharing.

    (Speaking of AEA Chicago’ 07…as I write this there is a picture of Dan Cederhold and Eric Meyer at Chicago ’09 below the comment box. What a difference two years makes in the hair of one individual. Eric pretty much had a tight buzz when I met him in ’07 ;)

  41. This is exactly why I keep coming back to your site. Though many would read your work for web design, it’s this kind of writing that makes it all special.

    Thanks Jeffrey!

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