This matters

This matters

I attended a wake today of a woman I'd only seen once in my life. I don't think I even had the chance to talk to her - her daughter married a good friend of mine last summer. She'd spent the final two decades of her life battling a disease that had left her disabled - so by the time of the wedding she was in a wheelchair and needing constant care by family members as she was unable to take care of herself. The two things I remember about her the day of the wedding was that she was very weak - struggling to drink through a straw - barely able to speak over a whisper. And I also remember she was in a beautiful dress and smiling the whole wedding and reception. I wanted to remember the dress that she wore, but when I looked at the wedding photos I took there were only a couple of pictures of her from the side of her wheelchair where only her hair and hands were visible. I wish I had taken the time to talk to her - which I did not.

The wake was beautiful. Many people remarked they were sad that she was gone but new the pain and suffering of her disease was gone now too. She was a teacher and former students, students who idolized her and some would become educators themselves  (like her daughter as well). Many photos of her were displayed in the waiting line showing her as a mom, a beautiful young woman and baby. I thought of how photographs (when I received the package of my mom's grandparent's belongings) answered questions and writings caused more questions and in this case her obituary, which was on display, told the story of a strong, well-educated woman and mother and her photos captured meaningful moments of her life. The prayer card was printed on picture of a beach she had taken in Bermuda. Those were moments that mattered, not just because they happened to be at the moment a camera lens was opened, but because they were representative of what was important in life - family, friends and experiences.

Earlier in the day, I spoke with someone I respect in my industry who had lost their job earlier in the day, a high-level executive position, and he reminded me as we spoke - "in the end, it's just a job". I think of how devoted I was at times to the many jobs I've had, which have lead to great experiences and even friendships, but I also think how much stress I allowed myself to feel to complete tasks with what were really arbitrary deadlines. I'll admit it - twice I was a bad worker and just blew off work. The first time - I don't even remember what it was that was so important that I'd been stressing - I just called out sick and took my wife and son to a Thomas the Train event across the state. My son loved it (this was so long ago that I only had one child). I don't even remember what it was at work, what project, what deadline it was, that I missed. I didn't matter. The second time I skipped work, it was only for a few hours. I do remember what I missed - doing a software release package - for a software which, at the time, had no clients using it. I admitted to my boss why I'd missed it later, and he understood. I'd been tipped off to a secret show and signing appearance at a store near by with my favorite athlete of all time - Don Mattingly. Meeting my childhood idol exceeded all expectations - Don was kind, funny, signed a ton of memorabilia and took photos with me.

This weekend, the OutRun38 group is holding a half marathon. Social media is abuzz with friends and classmates of mine getting near to the end of their quest of running a half marathon. I did five ridiculously hard miles of hills last week, but I don't know if I could ever do 13.1. I wonder how many of them thought they couldn't do it either - before. Some of the OutRunners I've talked to are going through great personal struggles, with finances, with their families and with their health, but being part of a group like that is meaningful. One of the co-founders and the inspiration of the group, my high school classmate Liz, has cystic fibrosis but hasn't let it affect her life in a negative way. She's one of the most inspirational people you'll ever meet, a very caring person and also a very good writer. I'd told her that instead of it being just a total negative that her disease causes such challenges, she's made it a positive how she's brought everyone together as a group, a community. Every day matters when you're told you "might" make it to a certain age and you exceed it and thrive. It also matters for a lot of people who will be taking part in a 13 mile race over the weekend - motivated by her, but driven by their own two feet to an accomplish that can never be taken away.

I guess it is one of those days you evaluate what is important - what matters. I watched a video tonight with my son about the human concept of counting and how our number system hides the way our brain puts together sets of numbers; we think logarithmic rather than linear (the way we count)- which may be one of the reasons why are perspective of our lives is so off. Our childhood seemed so long because in perspective, each year we lived was a much smaller percentage of our life than the year before (someone who is 2, turns 3 and lives 1/3 of their life that year; while someone who is 20 and turns 21 lives 1/21 of their life that last year). As people age, they lose friends and family around them, relationships die, people die but we move on. We can lose track of what matters over time if we become too focused on what does not matter or by basing our lives just on old photos that become iconic (rather than feeling what they represent). But what we can do - is find out what a meaningful life is - what matters to us. And live for that. It's what you chose to make it. 

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