Sometimes, you meet people who seem to have figured out how to live life their way. They’re not running around all the time, bound to “should’s.” They seem to find the good in everyone and patiently look for it. They’re not the big personality and yet not so quiet either; the person everyone knows is there by how they make people feel. The one who has made their mark in quiet ways.
This article relates to some of my own feelings and sharing of reflections on work/life balance, relationships and community, which I often discuss with clients. It comes up because of the connection to productivity (in life and work), to time management and definitely with ADHD. It all came up in a big, important way when I wrote my dad’s eulogy in terms of what he taught me. I wrote a short version of “lessons learned” for my wall, as a way to keep him present.
My dad died December 20th, 2017. And the man I considered my ‘second dad’ had died not 12 months earlier. Bookends to the year, and two tremendous men in different ways.
If you are grieving – which goes on a long time – the best advice I was given was to find ways to keep them present.
Talk about them when you see something that reminds you of them. I use the blanket dad was covered with his last few days. I keep his photo in a few places where I sit at my desk for work and for home. I use his Lake George t-shirt to ride my bike. We set a place for him at our first family dinner month after he’d died and wrote “A Place at The Table,” for all of us.
All of this encompasses physical reminders. When I used to work with people on side-by-side organizing, I’d ask about the “essence” of the person. That always got us to memories of the person, their character, what they enjoyed doing, who they were. We’d keep a few items or a memory box but the true keepsakes were the essence of the person. And with dad, understanding “find ways to keep him present” was incredible. Positive, hopeful, freeing.
The “Essence” of My Dad – Lessons He Taught Me
#1 We are all, quite simply, human and equal. Treat everyone with respect.
#2 Learn something from every person you meet. Approach with curiosity, and listen more than talk.
#3 People show their love in different ways. Sometimes you need to read between the lines.
#4 Protect the ones you love. They come first.
#5 People and relationships are what matter most. [My dad and mom were always involved in something social with good, good friends. What I see now is that those activities led them to people and relationships.]
#6 To be a true leader in life and work, you need to treat people well and collaborate, valuing their opinions and perspectives, too.
#7 Build family and community wherever you go. Enlist others and you enrich your life.
These lessons I learned from dad, sometimes by listening to his philosophical words and sometimes simply by watching his actions. Sometimes the greatest lessons are not passed along in words but in our actions. To live our lives well, like dad did, the lessons here are to be curious, to learn, to reach out, to love …. And to pass on your lessons through your actions – how you live your life.
As Joan Chittester writes: “If life is really for the living, then the trick to living well is to learn to live it fully, to soak it up, to revel in it. “
And that is what Jack West, my father, did so well.
I’m also sharing “We Remember Them,” a stunning poem I found very comforting. Recently, I shared “We Remember Them” with someone whose mom died, not long after my father. And that felt like keeping his presence alive, too. Something he would have done, I bet.
Read the whole poem by clicking the title.
At the rising of the sun and at its going down
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring … [Read the poem here.]
Jack & Gail West’s daughter