This was one of the tougher weeks in terms of life overshadowing work. Medical issues both personal and with family members took center stage. Work just didn’t seem so important even though it usually is to me and to most folks reading this post.
Although nowhere as serious, the events did bring back memories of my brother’s passing a few short years ago. My older brother Fred was 53 when he passed from advanced lung cancer. It took 8 months from end to end. It was mid summer when he found out and Valentines day when he passed. Three rounds of chemo, 12 days of intense radiation and some pretty harsh surgery to put a steel rod in his back to stabilize disintegrated vertebrae. We weren’t close for the majority of our lives and found a renewed relationship only 2 years prior to his diagnoses.
We actually became quite close during his last days. I grew up during his illness and assumed the role of family patriarch by default as my parents were deceased too. It’s a little strange to say I grew up in my late 40’s, better late than never.
Its strange when unexpected illnesses strike…nothing can prepare you for it or how to deal with it…its like a greenfield business experience only it’s 100 times more important. Many reading this have experienced this, and many of you will in the future too.
Business folks seem to pour all their extra energy into their careers. Tonight I want to tell all the workaholics you have it all wrong.
I want to tell you about my brother and how he lived his life.
When Fred passed he had over 400 people at his funeral (standing room only). He touched a lot of folks in ways that I didn’t realize until it was too late. Fred was a “super volunteer” – Rescue Squad, Town Swim Association President. police and coast guard auxiliary. Fred gave back to his community more than most of us ever will. He had lots of short comings, but his volunteering made a difference and impact in many individuals lives. He even saved a few, literally.
I gave my brother’s eulogy at his funeral. One of the hardest things I have ever done. How do you consolidate 53 yrs. into a 12 minute speech. I hit some highlights, some funny moments, and focused on his giving back to the community. When you die your headstone never mentions your BUSINESS accomplishments. Isn’t it ironic we spend so much of our time trying to be successful in our careers…In the end it’s really not whats most important. Occasionally I remind myself of that. I need to do it more often. My priorities are screwed up as many of you reading this are also in the same place putting work in front of family, friends, and as Fred did – our communities…
After the funeral, family and friends talked about Fred on the outside of his job. At work he was an average performer, smart but not always as driven as I thought he should be. That didn’t matter, it never even entered the conversation. In the scheme of things work was just a way to pay for life needs and a few desires, trips to Hawaii, scuba diving, his boat which was his passion. Love of the water is something my father, brother and I shared. for some reason I don’t go to the beach or pool as much as I used to. Maybe its time to enjoy it again.
This conversation is not about balance or flex or any other term of the week. It’s about life and how we live it.
Tonight when you go home give your family members a hug. Ask them how they are and show real interest.
Turn the flow of emails off for a couple of hours. Focus on your life. Work will be there in the morning waiting for you, but tonight is about something more important.
It wont fix years of neglect or mismanagement of your choices, but it will be meaningful even for a few moments. As the Nike ads say: “Just do it”.
Tonight is about your life.