Jack Pearson is dead.
Husband of Rebecca. Dad of Kevin, Kate, and Randall.
Jack was a good man, a caring man, a sensitive man. He was a devoted husband and father. A solid provider. A dreamer, yet also pragmatic. He wanted what was best for his family. He wanted his wife to know she was adored, and he wanted his kids to know that anything was possible, as long as they focused on it, worked for it, and believed in themselves.
And isn’t that what being a dad is all about?
“This Is Us” matters because it’s written and directed in a way that mirrors how we think, how we remember, and how we act. Juxtaposing the moments of the Pearsons’ past and present, it shows us how an event in the past (no matter how small and insignificant it may have been at the time) can inform and heighten and deepen a moment in the present. It also shows us how a moment in the present can suddenly bring a long-desired clarity to a moment that happened decades ago.
Sometimes these events can be as minor as a word or a look. But often, especially as we parent our kids, a word or a look can be major. And unforgettable.
All the characters on “This Is Us” have and inspire these moments, but in so many ways Jack was the catalyst for most of them. He was the family’s engine, its…oracle.
Watching his death produced a wave of sadness across the country, and it brought up an enormous storm of emotion in me. Jack’s legacy is the deep well of love that still lives in Rebecca and their kids, even all these years later. He left behind an rich past and a great wealth of wisdom.
In a good way, in a way that really matters, Jack’s death has made me wonder what kind of dad I am. Perhaps it’s making you wonder the same thing.
How will the many interactions I have with my kids affect their decisions and their futures—their whole lives? What will they remember, and how will their memories shape how they act with their own families and friends and colleagues? How will their memories equip them to handle their own tough moments, and how will their memories bring them the ability to act (and interact) with grace?
I keep asking myself: If I were to die tomorrow, what will I have left behind for (and in) my kids? Their mother and I set out to create amazing people. We actually said that out loud. That was our goal. And from the look of things, we’ve succeeded. At 21 and 17, our sons are miraculous young men: They’re kind, generous, attentive, fair-minded, and loving. They’re confident without being annoying. Ambitious without being single-minded. Compassionate without being weak. They’re solid and good, and we couldn’t be prouder of them.
Though they’ve barely begun their lives, they’re already leaving behind powerful legacies of their own. They’re having an impact on their friends and their classmates, their cousins and their parents. They’re mapping their courses. They’re on their roads, and who knows where those roads will take them?
What will they remember? In the style of “This Is Us,” what will their minds flash back to every now and then? What did their mother and I say or do at any given moment that will help them navigate? Where will they find inspiration? I look to my mom and dad, and I’m sure our kids will look to us.
Last year, Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack, was asked where he gets his own inspiration. He said, naturally enough, his dad. Take a look at this video from PaleyFest35—and make sure you have a handkerchief on-hand.
What we leave behind is an important thing to consider. My son, Jeremy, gave me that phrase. What we leave behind. He was thinking about what we leave behind after we die—but I’ve begun to think about it in terms of everything else. What do we leave behind after every interaction?
“This Is Us” matters because it shows us the lasting value and lasting effect of every interaction we have. What Jack left behind—both in life and in death—will shape his kids forever. As a dad, what are you leaving behind?