Wisdom from the Passing Torch

June 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden

Photo credit: Flickr User Tom Bech

Photo credit: Flickr User Tom Bech

The quote above was so meaningful to me that I put it up in my office at work. Its power was underlined over the past few weeks as I attended two celebrations of life.

At the first, the funeral of a colleague’s father, the pastor encouraged those in attendance to consider how we would want people to talk about us when it is time for our lives to be celebrated.

Of course, we have no way of knowing when that will be. Our time could come tomorrow or decades from now so living life to the fullest will provide a strong legacy to those we leave behind.

While, I live with no regrets, the second funeral – that of my mother-in-law – Mary Black, highlighted the life of someone who was as much of a role model as anyone could ever be.

Mary was soft-spoken but ever so strong. She was kind, gentle and compassionate. I can’t think of anyone else who no one would have a negative word to say about them.

She was the ideal mother-in-law and, in turn, she has my ultimate respect.

Mary’s way of life can probably be summed up best by what could be found on her refrigerator: pictures of family and friends and the Serenity Prayer.

She lived a simple life and her gifts were always thoughtful, often home-made.

One such present was delivered to my wife, Joyce, for Mother’s Day 14 years ago.

It was a journal filled with memories and answers to life questions.

It contained some sage advice which I’ll share:

  • What is the most important message you have to pass on to others? “Be honest, don’t be lazy, do your best. Learn to laugh at yourself. We really are funny.”
  • What is the secret of good health? “Have good genes, drink lots of water, eat sensibly, and keep moving.”
  • What is your advice to those younger than you? “If there is something that you really want do to, don’t put it off too long. If there is something that you know you should do or say, don’t put it off. Find something good about every day.”
  • What is your child-rearing philosophy? “Love them all the time, even when you hate what they are doing. Somebody has to be boss, so it better be an adult. Expect the best of them.”
  • One word on how to live successfully? “Love. I would say live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
  • What are your most deeply embedded values? Honesty, love, truth. I would love to live in a world where everybody has enough to eat and no one was hungry, cold or lonely. I believe selfishness and greed cause all the problems. I am a Christian and try to live a life that will hurt no one else and maybe even help other people.”

Mary lived in her own home until she was 89 when a stroke would hit and lead to her eventual deterioration.

It was always a pleasure to visit her place. The calming atmosphere and inclusiveness she fostered were an attraction as were the cinnamon buns.

She was a fine example where the reputation matched the character.

Goodbye, Mary, thanks for the memories and the lovely daughter.


A Successful Cross-Continental Search

June 9, 2014 § 2 Comments

tmavThere’s nothing quite like a series of old photographs to remind us of places we’ve been, friends we’ve been there with and the person we were ourselves at the time.

I’ve been on the road for 5 months to the day. My explorations have taken me across 9 countries and 5 continents, I still have just over a month to go before I’m home for the summer.

When I was leaving, one of my friends commented on Facebook, “I hope you find what it is you’re searching for!” I hoped so too. An epic trip like this had been my only real end goal since I came back from a 4 week trip to Italy and southern France in 2004… and now was the time to do it. I was lost.

Back in 2010, I had a moment. A moment where, like a ton of bricks, the reality of my brother’s death came crashing down on me. I’ve never had a moment that dark before (and thankfully haven’t since). In the days after that moment, I found myself reaching for my friends. Emails, messages, phone calls and notes, apologizing for being a “horrible” friend for feeling like I hadn’t been present for them in a long time. Most everyone just gave me a hug or an encouraging note back, except for two long time friends. They were hurt because they felt like they had lost a friend.

This point is only important now because I’ve been circling on our conversation a lot, trying to understand their perspective, looking through their eyes, remembering.

In these last 5 months, I’ve been clearing out a lot of lingering cobwebs like old beliefs come back for another go and nooks and crannies I hadn’t quite gotten to on my last internal sweep. But I’ve also been able to take a full step outside of my life and do a proper evaluation on what happened. My diagnosis–I suffered from a really, really, really broken-heart.

I’m on my own out here. Being on my own has given me ample time to feel, to reflect and to heal. I circled back to that conversation with those two friends to help me understand that part of me (my feeling heart) disappeared for a long time. It wasn’t lost exactly, it had just buried itself so far away from everyone that I had to go looking across continents for it.

The good news is that I found it somewhere back in Spain and today, looking back at all of my old photos and reconnecting with the person I was in them, I think I’ve convinced it to make the trek back with me this summer. I miss me and the friends and family I’ve surrounded myself with too!

I promise to keep a closer eye on it from here on in… and to let you help me by bringing it out more often!

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