Celebrating Micro-Moments with the Living (and the Dead)
February 4, 2018 was the last time I went to Forest Hills Cemetery to visit my grandparents.
It was also the last time my Philadelphia Eagles played in the Super Bowl.
On February 12, 2023, as my white car snaked along the narrow Forest Hills Cemetery blacktop, I explained to Chase and Dylan that we were visiting partly out of superstition (the Eagles won Super Bowl LII in 2018 and my actions obviously affected the outcome of the game), and partly out of my desire to share this earthly moment, again, with my grandparents.
Before I wrote this letter to you, I reread “Celebrating Victory with the Living (and the Dead)” from Bedtime Stories for the Living. A chapter about how on the cold, rainy morning of February 4, 2018, I felt a need to visit my dead grandparents. A chapter, when the book edged toward publication, my editor thanked me for writing and for helping her understand why sports matter so much to people.
I didn’t know it in 2018, but the urge to visit my grandparents a few hours before the Super Bowl was, as Dr. Barbara Fredrickson explains in her book Love 2.0, to create a “micro-moment.”
She believed that sharing brief, everyday positive actions– a smile, a conversation, a fist bump– with loved ones or even complete strangers have an important effect on our well-being. Dr. Fredrickson believed making micro-moments was vitally important for creating a positive lived experience.
These micro-moments of connection heightened feelings of acceptance and togetherness. These are genuine moments that play pivotal roles in increasing our happiness. Moments that encourage us to connect to others. Moments that teach us to value our brief human experience.
Life pulses with more micro-moments than Super Bowl moments.
And as humans, we need to experience the joys and defeats of life with other humans. Biologically, we were not meant to experience life alone. Whatever the situation, no matter how big or small—laughing with a coworker, waving to the mail carrier, holding your grandchild’s hand, watching the Super Bowl with people you love—these shared experiences energize us, comfort us, and further strengthen our need for connection. These are fleeting moments that deserve appreciation long after they have passed.
I now realize, even my weekly letter to you is a conduit of connection.
I come to this electronic page with a need to reach out and connect with you. It’s my way, I guess, of creating micro-moments. Moments that help me endure an incurable disease a bit more gracefully. Moments that gift me persistence and resilience. Moments that celebrate the indomitability of the human spirit.
Hours before the Eagles lost–rather heartbreakingly–Super Bowl LVII, Chase, Dylan and I ringed my grandparents grave wearing Eagles jerseys under a gray February sky.
“My grandparents, like your grandparents, were special people. You would have liked them,” I said.
“Dad,” Chase looked out across the rows of headstones, furrowed his young brow, and asked, “how many dead people do you think are in this cemetery?”
As a silver car passed, I secretly hoped that if I’m dead when the Eagles are playing in another Super Bowl, my children would visit the cemetery I’m buried in and share a micro-moment with their dad.
“All of them,” I said.
Things were quiet for a moment. A gentle wind blew across the cemetery. Then Dylan looked up and asked, “Was that suppose to be a joke?”
From Bedtime Stories for the Living. Originally written in February 2018:
Celebrating Victory with the Living (and the Dead)
On Superbowl morning I went to Forest Hills Cemetery wearing my Eagles jersey.
It’s February in Philadelphia and it’s cold and raining and my son is standing by my side and we’re looking down at the plaque marking the birth and death of my grandparents. Mike and Doreen.
I tell them about how the Eagles are playing in the Superbowl tonight. How they’re underdogs, been underdogs throughout the playoffs. A real Philadelphia story.
Never having performed the earthly art of speaking to the dead, my son stares at me and then quietly drifts towards the car.
I tell my grandparents I’m a bundle of emotions. Excited, nervous.
I tell them I think we’re finally going to win.
I tell them I’ll be thinking about them tonight.
I can feel Chase watching me. His nose pressed up against the car window. His 7 year old mind convincing itself that his father is a little stranger, a little more mysterious than previously thought.
An hour earlier, before the rain, I was staring out my kitchen window into the calm, gray morning and listening to sports talk radio.
Mary from Doylestown said she was going to wear her brother’s Eagle’s jersey tonight. She said her brother taught her the Eagles fight song and how after high school he enlisted in the Army and how on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan was killed by a suicide bomber.
Bill from Broomall said he’ll be watching tonight’s game from his recliner and with his father’s urn propped beside him. Like he’s done all season.
Then two things happened before the Jim from Norristown could finish his story about going to his first Eagles game at Franklin Field in 1960 with his parents who are now both deceased:
One, I was on the verge of tears. Serious man-tears. And two, I had a sudden urge to visit my grandparents.
My grandparents were casual sports fans. They celebrated when Philadelphia celebrated.
My grandfather was a Philadelphia police officer and would tell me stories about being down on the Veterans Stadium field, working security during Eagles games. How after the game he would visit the locker and talk to the players. Which, when you’re a kid, is just about the coolest thing in the world–much cooler than talking to wet cemetery grass.
Beyond that, I don’t remember any conversations with either of them about sports.
But that’s not the point.
My grandparents were fans of life. Fans of their children and grandchildren. They taught me the importance of togetherness, community, celebrations and traditions. And since sports is a freeway that connects people, on Superbowl Sunday, I wanted my grandparents to feel a part of the biggest game in Philadelphia sports history. To feel a part of the living story again.
Later that day the Eagles defeated the Patriots to capture the first Superbowl title in franchise history. A franchise founded in 1933.
When the clock settled on 0:00, I hugged my mom and dad. I hugged my brothers. I hugged my wife and children.
Later that night, when the celebration quieted, I thought about my grandparents.
And I’m sure Mary, Bill and Jim were all hugging the spirits of their loved ones late into the night as well.
As children, our parents told us not to stress over striking out or missing a shot. They told us not to take it so hard. They told us that it’s just a game.
And now, as parents, we pass down the same sentiments to our children.
Don’t take it so hard. Let it go. It’s just a game.
Yet I know it’s not just a game. And my son now knows it’s not just a game.
Because hours before the Super Bowl he listened to me talk to the dead.
Because inside the earthly boundaries of the game, rests something ethereal that connects the living to the dead.
A magical spell of muscle and bone that coaxes the dead to sit up and smile and celebrate the joy of sports, the joy of life with us once again.
A writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and award-winning author, Jay Armstrong always enjoyed making people feel something. He was also a stand-up comedian. Ever since he was a child he wanted to write a book. His memoir, Bedtime Stories for the Living won first place in the non-fiction/parenting category of the International Readers’ book contest. He enjoys reading, writing, and exercising. Read full interview…
February Book Promos for You:
Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?
This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the links below:
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take…
A few months ago, with low expectations, I took a shot and entered “Bedtime Stories for the Living” in the highly regarded, highly competitive international book contest presented by Readers’ Favorite. Readers’ Favorite is an established force in the publishing industry. They have worked withPenguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.
Anyway, just before I was about to take a midday nap, I was informed that this suburban dad had won…
First Prize, the Gold Medal, in the Non-Fiction/Parenting genre!
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently listening to: The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study on Happiness
If you like this post, you may also like:
Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com