Recently I wrote about death and the process of dying. Since that post, I had the honor of attending one of those folk’s — a friend and former boss of mine’s — memorials. Each time I attend a celebration of life, funeral, or memorial, I am reminded of how we touch each others lives.
When my friend Glenn’s widow was planning her husband’s event, she was trying to determine how many would attend, so she’d have some idea of how many to plan for, how much food and how many beverages to buy. Friends suggested she should plan for a couple of hundred. In reality, many more than that attended. Ultimately, I won’t remember many showed up, but I will never forget what was said by many who came.
“One time when we were at dinner,” one person said, “he asked the waitress to let him pay for the check for the strangers dining at the table next to us, anonymously.” Another offered, “He saved a boat of stranded fisherman, and made sure that no one would repeat the story, because he didn’t want credit.” Later, as I reflected on all the stories told at the event, I was deeply moved by how this man truly touched and enriched other humans’ lives, both those he knew and those he didn’t.
A twenty years after I’d worked for him and had gone to work for a competitor, my team needed help understanding Glenn’s business practices and why they worked. I took my team on a tour of Glenn’s company, and he offered suggestions. My team was bewildered. When they asked why he would be so generous, he answered, “friendship and collaboration.” Glenn was clear that for our county to be strong and financially healthy, manufacturing must be done here. His thinking was that there is plenty of business to share and “many hands make light work.”
This is the second boss that I have lost in my life. Both had great impact on me and taught me an enormous amount about the manufacturing business. At the funeral of the first boss who passed, I remember being struck by the same profound spirit of generosity. There were people at that funeral who had been down and out on their “luck,” and he had continuously helped them out with the same caveat of confidentiality. Both these men had tremendous hearts and were happy to share as long as no credit was given.
My stepfather taught me from a very young age that giving from the heart without onlookers or notoriety is the most rewarding way to give. After his death, I have often thought about the kindness that he showed to others when no one was looking. I am thankful for this profound lesson and modeling.
In thinking about my end, the thing I will consider is not how many or who will attend a celebration, or if there should be one at all, but how many lives I may have touched and have touched mine.
What can you give? How will you be remembered? How do you remember those who have died?
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