Monday, August 14, 2017

Of Death and Life On Vacation

Done much reflecting over the past two weeks …….

Periodically I think back to 2009 when I unexpectedly was removed from my job of 16 years.  Suddenly you feel worthless and unimportant.  You feel abandoned.  Your former company doesn’t want you.  Your former coworkers mostly shun you. And you avoid your friends because you want to hide just how badly you are messed up at the moment.  Since I began searching at the very weakest point of the job market, no one wanted to talk to me about being “valuable” again (one interview in the first eight months).  I felt worthless and abandoned. In despair, you wonder if your life will ever have meaning or worth again.

When you are in this pit your faith sustains you. It causes you to raise your hand through the mire and expect God to lift you out. Which he does, because he is God and He’s very good at such things.  You also then expect Him to immediately restore you right back to where you were.  But that’s not the way it works.  It took me four years of struggle to get back. Several times it was so arduous I wanted to quit, but I kept going until I made it.  Why does it take so long? Because you learn things in the pit you can’t learn anywhere else and you gain strength though the struggle back you can’t get anywhere else.

I was prompted to remember this during a week where I was interviewed (again) by the Wall Street Journal, interviewed for an hour on national radio and worked diligently on a lengthy, costly, analysis for a large, foreign, international firm.  It would appear that my work has some worth again.   And I don’t say this to brag at all. It’s just to illustrate the distance I have travel and how insipid those awful thoughts were in 2009.  I still view my circumstances with a bit of child-like wonderment, always cognizant of where this chapter of my life began.

And just so I don’t float away holding on to this magical balloon, there are anchors which keep my feet on The Road.  After this exciting, exhausting week, I fortunately began my summer vacation.  It’s often difficult for me to unwind, relax and turn my mind to non-work-related matters as my vacation begins.  That was not the case this year.

On the first day, I learned of the death of my classmate Bob.  He was a great guy who I was able to reconnect with a couple years ago.  There was a tremendous outpouring of grief and remembrance from friends and family on Facebook. Bob’s passing wasn’t unexpected, he had suffered a stroke a few days earlier.  It did shake me because Bob was a year younger than me.  It’s totally illogical, but those who die younger than you push mortality closer to your face than others.

Then early morning of day two, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of my Canadian friend and colleague Claude. His death was totally unexpected.  He’s fine, we’re always corresponding on Facebook, and boom, he’s gone. I was shaken again, stronger this time, because Claude was only 53 years old.  I reflected on Claude and our friendship. I asked myself the question: What person do you know who is the most like Claude?  Who would you compare him to?  The answer to this question turned the shakes into a quaking. A deep quaking because that person stares back at me in the mirror every day.

This caused me to forget about work and meditate on more spiritual matters.  The conclusion?  Claude and Bob both followed my philosophy on life:  “Live your life in such a way that people are not sad that you died, but they are sad that you are not still here.” So If I’m still here, there must still be some important things yet to do.  Time to put more focus on those things.

While the beginning of vacation week was mournful, the end of the week was hopeful.  Two of my friends, Kris and Lori, are each beginning new positive chapters in their lives.  These are beautiful people who have made it through some brutally painful times.  I suspect at their low points they felt worthless and abandoned. However, these two women refused to quit and now they each have the opportunity to thrive.

What is our part in this?  I know it was true of Claude and suspect it was true of Bob, that it is our responsibility to help people in their journey down The Road.  When you encounter souls such as Lori and Kris, pick them up when they are down. Help them walk The Road as they recover. And lift them up when they spread their wings. Fly ladies, fly.