The Wake Up Call
Every now and then I need a good smack upside the head. I got one last Monday. Perhaps there's a lesson in here for you, too.
A friend-- an acquaintance really -- died and I went to his funeral. I knew Glen because our boys played baseball together when they were 8. Glen was a wiry guy with a quick smile and mischief in his eyes. Always a great conversationalist and cracking jokes.
Although we lived in the same small town, our paths didn't cross much after that. I live on the north side. He lived on the south. Our kids went to different schools and our families went to different churches. One of the things I always liked about Glen was that he was one of those Christians who was truly fun to be around. I don't mean fun in terms of "being kind" or "being interested in you" or "having something thoughtful to say" -- although he was certainly like that. I mean fun as in funny and "Let's have a party" and "It's 5 o'clock and the Beer Lamp is lit." That kind of fun.
Glen had a long bout with scleroderma and cancer and died at age 54. This suffering seemed to have two effects on him. First, he lived life with real gusto. He loved baseball, the Cubs, all Purdue sports, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. The second effect his obvious mortality had on him was that his faith was real. Heaven was real. Jesus was real. He talked about all of that often with his friends and his three boys.
He was the type of guy who actually lived out cliches like "Live with an attitude of gratitude" and "Everyday is a holiday and every meal's a feast." He loved Christian music -- especially songs re-done with a country western flair.
But what most struck me about Glen last Monday was watching his life story told via video put to a series of 4-5 songs (a great mix, by the way, of Fernando Ortega, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, and Randy Travis. He choreographed every second of his own funeral well in advance of his death.) While the video had a lot of pictures of his wife and his kids there was an overwhelming number of pictures of him and his buddies doing wacky things. His motto was "Faith. Family and Friends" and the friends piece was not some afterthought.
My wake up call from Glen's funeral is that I've let my friendships slip. I wrote a whole chapter about the importance of relationships in my book The Joy Model, yet I've stopped heeding my own advice.
This friendship thing doesn't seem to be as big a problem for women. But I know from coaching a lot of men at the Halftime Institute that lots of guys don't have friends -- or have gotten so focused on marriage, kids, and work that their friendships have withered.
On Wednesday, I sent out a message to 7 of my pals to get a date on the calendar this summer to head up into the Colorado mountains -- like we used to when we were younger -- for a camping, fishing, and horseback riding trip. Thanks for the nudge, Glen.
"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart." Ecclesiastes 7:2