Last Sunday I had the privilege to attend the memorial of a wonderful man and friend who died just weeks ago at the age of 62 of a heart attack and whose health had been slowly ravaged by ALS-Lou Gehrig’s disease. His name is Mike and I don’t think I have met a kinder, gentler, or more compassionate man. The memorial was a great celebration of Mike’s life as each of his four adult children spoke with great eloquence of the love, kindness, patience, and warm-heartedness that Mike shared with each of them and their reflections of how Mike had also shared it with everyone he encountered. In our countless interactions, both as an usher at our Church and outside, I can’t think of a single instance where he was not smiling and not exuding warmth and kindness that came across as so natural and authentic. I also cannot recall in all of our conversations over the years where he ever uttered an unkind word about anyone and anything.
I know I am not so naïve to believe that Mike didn’t have his flaws and that he had moments like all of us where he was not at his best. But as his children shared their stories and other friends also shared their reflections of Mike’s life, it was clear that even his 8-year journey with ALS did not diminish the dignity and kindness with which he lived and carried himself.
In my client work, I often challenge people to make sure they are living their lives with great purpose and to be clear about what is most important in their lives and the legacy they hope to leave behind. In my own life, I would most like for those who really knew me well to remember me for my compassion, kindness, generosity, humility, and purpose. I choose these qualities for many reasons, one of which is that these are qualities that I admire most in others and do not come naturally to me. I have to be intentional in working hard at them and am hoping to have many more years of living so I have the time to polish all my many rough edges and become the man I aspire to be.
Mike embodied all of these qualities in great measure. Through my reflections of his wonderful life and the sadness that he left this world far too soon, I am inspired by his example to be a better man and I am deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to meet and know him.