(Re-posted by request)
How You Live Life
My friend George loved life. At his 75 birthday, I asked him, “How does it feel to have reached three-quarters of a century?” He said, “Great! Except I feel like a 17-year old trapped inside the body of an old man!”
He punctuated his words with an exaggerated, slow-motion soft shoe routine.
When George retired from the United States Postal Service, he set up shop in his garage as a TV repairman. Even before George began advertising his services, he knew that his customers were too poor to pay for his meager labor, much less the costly parts needed for repairs.
How You Love Those Around You
George didn’t mind. He’d say, “That’s alright. Don’t worry about paying me. But,” he’d add with a wink, “If there’s ever a time you end up with an extra can of cold beer in your possession, I wouldn’t mind seeing you again!”
At 77, the years had finally caught up with George. After beating cancer twice and enduring years of kidney dialysis, George entered hospice.
The same warmth and love George displayed his entire life still burned brightly during his last days.
Thanks to the expert pain-management medication administered by the hospice team, George did not suffer, and he slept most of the time. But when he was awake, he’d tease the nurses and joke with his family as if this hospice thing were just another part of life: inconvenient, yes, but just another chapter in his story.
How You Care For Others
A couple of days before he passed, George’s favorite nurse named Jean came by to see him on her day off. Heavily sedated, George’s eyes didn’t flutter when she leaned over him and whispered, “George, your whole family is here, standing around your bed in a circle. And I’m here, too, just stopping by to check on you, my dear friend.”
She held his hands and rubbed them gently. After a while, she leaned over him again and said, “I have to go now, George. We understand that it’s almost your time to go. I want you to know that I will always remember you and the way you’ve made me laugh.” Then she kissed his old, wrinkled forehead.
As she turned to leave, George’s eyes fluttered for a moment. He opened them just as Jean turned around.
How You Make Others Feel
George called out hoarsely, “Jean. Wait.”
Jean quickly returned to his bedside.
“Before you go,” George said clearing his throat, “would you do something for me?” he asked weakly.
“Anything, George,” Jean smiled sweetly, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Would you turn around and back into my hand,” he said as he brought his fingers towards his thumb, “so I can pinch your bottom one more time?”
Tears cascaded down the faces of every person in his room. The hospice staff all knew that George would not allow a nurse to enter his presence sad. Or leave sad. Throughout his end-of-life care, medical professionals and family members would walk into his room saddened by his imminent passing, but they would exit wiping tears of laughter and joy in celebration of George’s life, even as that life began to fade.
How You Choose to Live Today
So many people attended the service that the small church exceeded capacity when the time came to say goodbye to George. People didn’t turn out to celebrate the life of a postal worker, although several former colleagues attended. They didn’t come to celebrate the passing of a talented TV repairman, because George would be the first to say that he had more time than talent when it came to fixing things. They didn’t show up to celebrate a loyal husband of 53 years or the father of six, but be assured that his wife, children, grandchildren, and even great-grand children filled the front pews.
They packed the church and the graveside to show respect for a man of no title, little money, and few possessions. People came to say goodbye to a man who knew how to live, love, and leave the world a better, more gentle place than it was when he entered it.
George never met a stranger. And he never crossed paths with another person without leaving a little of himself behind. To some he gave a smile, others a full-blown laugh. Many received a look and a nod that said, “Everyone around here is crazy except for you and me. At least we’re in this together!”
What That Means For You and Me…
According to my gender and current age, I have 31 years left…if I don’t get hit by a bus sooner. How about you? Your clock is ticking, too. Maybe we should use the example of George to dictate how we choose to live the remaining time we’ve be given:
- Live on Purpose, with Purpose. Time is not a renewable resource. Let’s act like what we do matters. Because it does. Or at least, it should. Am I living life on purpose? Am I living life with purpose?
- People First. How we treat those around us this moment will show up at our memorial services. Hint: “Always on the computer” is NOT the most flattering eulogy. Do my neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family members know how much they mean to me? What can I do today to show them that they are my priority?
- Leave them wanting more. A friend of mine described a trainer he listened to at a workshop as “smart from the first minute he spoke, brilliant throughout the first hour, and an absolute bore before the first break.” When it’s my time to go, will the people that mean most to me wish we had one more week, day, hour, or minute together?