Stephen Covey in his great book, 7 Habits of of Highly Effective People, counseled us to Begin with the end in mind. This weekend we buried my brother-in-law, Andrew Kim Weaver, he was 53. He was taken from us too soon and his life was far from done. Death is the most sobering experience. It brings a whirlwind of emotions punctuated by moments of inspiration, depression and self awareness. Listening to people who knew Andrew gave our family incredible insights into his lives. Yes, lives plural. We all have them. Our worlds of friends and activities that define us. A view into his generosity and his spirit. Some of the stories were truly surprising, most reinforced our view of him. But what emerges is a much more complex and accurate story of the man and his legacy. While we will never forget him and our pain will endure for a long time, we try and gravitate to the lessons in life we learn, especially when life ends prematurely. Don't have the space here nor is this the forum to tell Andrew's life story. His life like all of our lives was unique and packed full of people, successes, failures, intentions and regrets.
When you see the end, you begin again.
In many ways Andrew lived a simple life but his life taught me some powerful lessons. I learned them from Andrew and the people who remembered him. I hope these three inspire you.
- Be who you are: Andrew lived his life the way he wanted. He cared little about how others viewed him and more about showing up everyday. He enjoyed life seeking joy and discovering new things.
- Never stop giving even when you have nothing to give: Andrew was very generous with his time and his resources when he was laid off. He helped other people financially even though he was broke. He helped people when he desperately needed assistance. He was unconditional with his love, support and friendship.
- Never give up: Andrew had many hardships, some of his own making. Yet he always battled back. He dropped out of college, but completed his degree 19 years after he started it. He was an alcoholic who was sober for more than 12 years until he died. He was forced to take a demotion to an administrative assistant position because of an injury and three years later became a manager and named employee of the year in 2009.
Death is a mystical and elusive concept. It is inevitable, but we all think it will be further out there and we have time to "do what I want". We say things to ourselves and to others like, "life is short", "smell the roses", "have quality time" but we rarely do things differently. We live as if we will never die and die as if we have never lived. We see life like the mirage on the desert highway. We just keep driving at high speeds with no appreciation for the length of the trip or the scenery that rushes past. Not going to bore you with all of the trite exercises that ask you to write your obit, epitaph, or eulogy. However, defining what we want is paramount.
One of my favorite books, Einsteins Dreams, author Alan Lightman poses a number of questions and concepts about relativity and time. One chapter basically begins with the query, What if you knew you would die on September 29? It was such a specific date! It gave me pause when I first read it. No discussion of how I would die, (how I could prevent it was also irrelevant) but next September 29th I am gone! Your conception of life and what's important is transformed.
We need to connect with what we want and the people we love now. I don't want to learn about people I care about at their funerals.
I met this incredible woman Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch (that's her real name!) She grew up in abject poverty and became Lt Colonel in the Army! Her life story is a classic immigrant American dream where a woman overcomes great odds. She implores people to"Live a legacy instead of planning to leave one."
Or as coach Wooden said,"Make everyday your masterpiece." Time and opportunity are finite and fleeting things. We have to go for it and minimize those brutal regrets.Thanks to Andrew, I realize how much more I could give and how much more I can do to be a better person. The time today is a gift. What am I possibly waiting for?
A post it note on Andrew's desk read, "If you are angry, fight. If you want to die, then wait until tomorrow. Today you may do some good for someone else."
I have seen the end and I begin again. And I am gonna fight and do some good. How about you?
Andrew, thank you for living a legacy. Thank you for the lessons and inspirations then and now.
Thanks for reading. John