The Word of God

The Shadow of Your Smile

Adult son with father sitting in restaurant

“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”  St. Francis of Assisi

“The shadow of your smile, when you are gone, will color all my dreams and light the dawn. Look into my eyes, my love and see all the lovely things you are to me.” Songwriters Johnny Mandel/Paul Webster, “The Shadow Of Your Smile” lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

His father was turning seventy and he was literally scrambling for the most clever and appropriate surprise to provide to mark this wonderful and yet overwhelming occasion. Theirs was a unique relationship, as so many are. They did not spend that much time together, yet, if you were to ask either of them, it was as if they talked every day, and perhaps they did, in a spiritual, almost mysterious sort of way. When they would gather for a quick lunch or an occasional steak dinner at one of their favorite “mom-and-pop” steak houses that looked more like an abandoned laundromat, they laughed quite often at the way they would finish each other’s sentences.

As a father of four himself, he had understood and accepted the awesome responsibilities of parenthood and on this particular day, he was walking into a dental office with his youngest son, who by far was the most extensive patient and costly of all his four children. Perhaps, he was also the least appreciative. As he stepped inside, the aroma of the office assaulted him. It was the smell of the toothpaste-cleansing materials, the sterilized dental equipment mixed in with the freshly washed floors and polished sinks which created that mysterious scent associated with all dental offices. Slowing down, he took a deep breath, clouded his eyes, and was transported back to his youth, to the first time he went to the dentist’s office with his dad. He did not know what braces were when he first heard the word, but he would never forget them after that. His teeth were in horrible need of costly work that already begun to inhibit him to hide the smile that was growing alongside the rest of his body. 

One thing was for sure, there was going to be a whole lot of sacrifices to be made to make this work. But he was still a kid and could not appreciate all the ups and downs of keeping a family financially afloat. Then came that one day after school that he came home early and walked down the hall in their modest house and heard his parents talking. His mother seemed a little upset with his dad, and then he heard his name mentioned. They were not really fighting but for a small kid, it just sounded like he was the reason for an argument. This dental expense was not “absolutely” necessary and because of struggling times, there was this thought floating between them that maybe he could get his own teeth worked on when he arrived into his adult years. But his dad would not hear of it. He was going to sell a few prized collector’s items, pick up a second job doing security work at the nearby mall, and that would be it.

Here was yet another example of what Mother Teresa meant when she said that we need to give until it hurts. That young man, wise beyond his years, realized the sacrifice his father was about to make for him and he could still remember that night moistening his pillow with his tears, tears of pure joy that he had a father who loved him so much and would practically do anything for his happiness. He made a silent but powerful promise to God that he would never forget him for it. For the next couple of years or so, his dad would call out to him whether they were outside working on the yard, at the supper table, or maybe coming back from the gas station, and then flash this playful, Cheshire-cat type of wide-grin, and say the same thing each time: “You see, everything always works out!”

Now as an adult with his own growing family, he found that these were challenging days, maybe even a little on the dark side. Everything seemingly was falling apart for him as he began to witness some of his dreams go up in smoke. He just could not catch a break, and all the while he did not want to worry his father who was equally growing anxious about his son’s anxiety levels affecting everything from his marriage to his appreciation of the man he had become. However, the biggest test of faith and family was about to be served to both men. His father had asked him for a ride to the doctor’s office so they could grab a steak afterwards. There was an unusual quiet during the relatively short ride to the medical center, and it seemed that both had much weighing on their minds, first for themselves, then for the other.

After waiting almost an hour, he witnessed his dad step out of the doctor’s office as if he had just put gas in the sedan, with nothing seemingly out of the ordinary. He provided the copay and the two walked out of the clinic and got in the vehicle. Right away, there was something very wrong that made that deep aching pain in the stomach so much worse. “Let’s go,” his dad said and with that his son knew something was very wrong. They drove for a while in silence, and his son knew that his dad would tell him what was wrong in his own way. They took the long way to the little restaurant, and as they drove down past their old house, the baseball field where they made such wonderful memories, and of course, their old dentist’s office, the older of the pair started talking about life and the memories each place helped to create. That’s when the younger man knew his dad was dying. They looked at each other and nodded. No words, as usual, were needed. They understood.

And there it was again, that smile. The smile that says what words can hardly convey between the souls that truly have been placed on this earth for each other. Sometimes it is in marriage, sometimes great friends, and sometimes, in the most amazing of moments, between those who are called fathers and sons. Under the shadow of that smile, great things grow. And they grow into a gift that is not only hard to describe or put into words, but also impossible to share without breaking down in a pool of cathartic tears. This is the story of so many who live and move and have their being walking around us every day. Perhaps we know their stories and most likely, we do not. But they are there. And wouldn’t be just a little gift we could give to ourselves today, deserved or not, that at the end of our lives, when we open our eyes after this earthly journey is completed, we could hope to see the face of Jesus. Of course, he is smiling. And what do you think he’ll say?

“You see, everything always works out!”

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”  Erma Bombeck

Share your thoughts (17 thoughts)

17 thoughts on “The Shadow of Your Smile”

  • Tony Montez says:

    I’ve always loved the saying, “Everything always works out.” Admittedly, the saying usually comes to mind after everything has worked out. This story reminds me that most relationships fall below the standard enjoyed by this father and son; not in the degree of love, in the degree of quality which is love in action. Nice to see Erma Bombeck’s insightful two cents. This story was really timely since I happen to be navigating a life transition. I get concerned about the quality of my relationships. It’s nice to be reminded everything works out.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back, Tony, and thank you for that little bit of levity: “Everything works out…usually comes to mind after everything has worked out.” Good one.
      Your observation about the the standard of our father and son in the story has been echoed by several readers through several other sources. Although that saddens me a bit, it also encourages me to raise the “degree of quality which is love in action,” as you so eloquently stated. I truly want to be the best I can be as a friend, a co-worker, a relative, even a Godfather. Concern over our relationships is good only to the extent that good fruit is produce. Blessings upon your new time of harvest. No doubt you’ll do great, as always. “Everyone has their own boat, it’s a matter of pulling it out of the sand, and putting it in the water. But further, you can anchor the boat in fear when the storms rage, and go nowhere, let it drift aimlessly on its own or you can let God be the navigator and guide you on a journey in a way that is right for you.”
      ― Anthony Liccione

  • Julie Trevino says:

    Beautiful story…and I love the quote from Erma Bombeck! I would hope that’s something that I can say when I stand before God.
    You don’t have to be rich to give to others but the giving of love and sacrifice of oneself is the greatest gift. That’s the greatest gift a parent can give to their children. That’s the greatest gift God gave us.
    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whomever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
    The giving can start with a simple smile. A smile that is healing, hopeful and comforting. A smile that will let us know that at the end everything will be okay.

    • Caro says:

      I could not agree more with you, Julie! Thank you for sharing your parental perspective with all of us. I, too, enjoy reading Emma Bombeck with such basic and realistic approaches to life and love, and all the things that make us this wonderful adventure we call grace. God smiles at us every day and in every moment even if we are sad and crying —especially when we are sad and crying. God bless you always, Julie. Read you next time! Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

  • Denise Guerra says:

    I really enjoyed this story. Like so many of your stories, it took me back to conversations with my dad. He had a way of delivering even the most distressing news with the greatest finesse. You always knew and understood what he was trying to say. Thank you again for a wonderful story.

    • Caro says:

      It is truly amazing, isn’t it , Denise, that as adults we remember more and more and more about the great and loving sacrifices our parents made for us! I often catch myself thanking my Dad, and sometimes asking forgiveness for all the hard-headedness that I put him through especially when I see and hear a fire truck (he was a Fire-Fighter). That is why these stories and presentations help open us for so many of us not only a new appreciation of what was done for us but also and perhaps most importantly our great desire to be the men and women we were created to be. Thanks again for your comments. They are always greatly appreciated.

  • Rosa Shala says:

    As St Paul says: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” And so I believe is for us when we become parents, we realize more and more the great love and sacrifice they endured.

    Thank you for bringing out the best of the best in your writings. God bless you!

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, Rose, for your kind words and insights in response to our latest blog offering of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Parenting and family life are such wondrous ways of learning how to live and love that they often are overlooked because of the frenetic pace we run. These articles and blog posts help us stop and literall9 smell the roses that are all around us. I hope that all is well with you and your family. Please keep reading and responding! “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do, too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it myself.”— Joyce Maynard

  • Caro says:

    For those who would like to listen to Andy Williams’ rendition of the “Shadow of Your Smile,” you can watch and listen here:

  • Thought No. 1:
    A smile embedded on one’s soul offers healing to those it encounters.

    Thought No. 2:
    A smile shown through the human eyes of a humble and joyful soul speaks comfort to those in dire need of such.

    Thought No. 3:
    A soul must continually be fed and filled with holy things so it is able to smile and provide healings that will last a lifetime.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, Sandy, for the time and effort you took to respond to our latest post and for the insights that I am sure our readers will also benefit. If I may, summarize your thoughts so that I can remember them during rainy days where the light seems to go out if just for just a second. The smile is healing, hopeful, and comforting. We may never know what impact we have by just being present to those whom the Lord has placed in our path. Use your smile to change the world but don’t let the world change your smile.

  • Veronica Leal Altamirano says:

    My eyes filled up with tears reading this article because it’s what I enjoy seeing on a daily basis, my kid’s smile, all three of them. You see as a mother, I try to teach my kids daily the sacrifices that come along with giving to the people you love. So yes some days are harder than others, but a smile from each and every one of them is priceless. That great feeling of the glimpse of God’s love in a smile fills me with so much peace, joy, and happiness.

    My favorite Saint, Mother Teresa, said it perfectly, “Peace begins with a smile.” You see it truly is the beginning of love. Only God can fulfill that inner peace and joy and a smile gives us all a glimpse of His love for us.

    Another great article! Thank you for reminding us all that it’s the things money can’t buy that truly gets us closer to our creator. May we all leave everyone with a smile.

    • Caro says:

      Thanks again, Veronica, for your wonderfully inciteful response to our latest entry, “The Shadow of Your Smile.” I love the interplay of sadness and hope that are communicated by just a smile that reveals that all life can be very harsh and heavy at times, we know how the story ends for those who love, trust, and believe in the tremendous power of Jesus. “A smile is the flower that grows in the garden of the heart to beautify and attract the butterflies of life.”

  • Anonymous says:

    Beautiful Caro!! YOU ARE A GREAT WRITER. Henry J Medina, Merrill Lynch, 361-206-2006

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, Henry. Your sincere words are most appreciated. It reminds me of something that was written about imagination more than a handful of years ago “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
      ― Robert Fulghum,

        All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts On Common Things
  • Jakob Silva says:

    This story hits home for myself. Having the same father who would do anything for anyone of his children. No matter our history or past with one another. I have been blinded about the good things in my life. For the longest time, and I just hope and pray that the Lord will wipe away the dust and I can see that I have been blessed and life is beautiful. A smile does go along way and can change someone’s life. For the better. I want to be apart of that.

    • Caro says:

      Absolutely, Jakob. Thank you so very much for your response. Life is truly amazing. I was moved by your self-reflection about being blinded by obstacles to see what true and wondrous blessings we received every day. I know our readers will certainly appreciate that as well.

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