Last week was one of the greatest of my professional career. Truly. The week was one long defining moment. One of those weeks where all the hard work, all of the training, all of the collective disappointments and successes collide to make magic. I’ve had weeks that were like last week, but none that was quite as uplifting; none that made me feel as good about myself, my colleagues…and, yes, even the world. The week was just that good.
And then in the midst of the celebrating on Thursday…the phone rang.
A friend and one-time mentor had passed away. The high of highs was suddenly confused by the low of lows. All of the elation was sucked from my soul and I was crushed. The events of the week instantly gone…replaced by the agony of death. Frankly, I didn’t know whether to celebrate or cry. The clash of emotions was so confusing. Mike was gone, but just moments earlier, before the phone call…
I wanted to scream.
I’ve spent the better part of the last few days trying to work it all out. Trying to figure out the lesson. Sure, there’s the obvious thoughts about living every day as though it’s your last. Death has a way of providing a kind of instant clarity and perspective. I’m far too familiar with this. But, for me, there seems to be something deeper in the confusion. For me, Mike’s death will leave something far more lasting, I think. I hope.
You see, and I’ve written this before, perspective is incredibly easy to find, but undeniably difficult to keep. Perspective is often like a New Year’s Resolution (blog about this forthcoming). We make these resolutions with the best of intentions, but they are often fleeting. Worse, failing to achieve the resolutions often makes us feel worse than if we had never made them in the first place. Perspective is like that. We’re empowered by our clarity, but it’s often gone as fast as it came…and when we find it again – we’re reminded of our failures to keep it.
So, what does Mike’s death leave me with? What is the lasting lesson that I hope to take with me – not just now, but every, single day? Celebrate. Celebrate every day. This is more than some kind of “get busy livin’” kind of thing. I mean this in more than the “live every day/life is short” kind of way. That’s too cliché for a great man like Mike. Especially since he was a sportswriter. Those kinds of “I’m just hoping to take it one game at a time” kind of comments (which is what “life is short” amounts to) don’t honor Mike, his talent, or his impact on so many lives.
I remember sitting with Mike in Florida so many years ago. I was lost. Alone. I was working too many hours for far too little reward. I was bitching about one thing or another and he told me to stop. He told me that I had no idea how good I had it. It wasn’t tough love, so much as it was a gentle reminder. And, it wasn’t some holier than thou speech about those less fortunate. Mike was just reminding me to celebrate my achievements. He reminded me to look around. He reminded me to take stock of the good, the bad and the ugly. He reminded me to celebrate it all. He reminded me that lows are needed for highs. It’s a reminder that I’ve forgotten time and time again.
Mike’s death has affected me deeply, I think, because I had more or less lost touch with him. We take certain people in our lives for granted, sometimes. We make assumptions about their availability and their roles in our lives. I definitely did that with Mike. He was just always going to be there, or so I thought. When I needed to, I could check in with him. Now, I can’t. It’s a brutal truth that has resulted in four sleepless nights.
But, as Monday looms and a new week dawns, it’s time to celebrate the achievements of last week and all the people that helped make it happen. I need to take stock of the year that led up to the events of last week. It wasn’t easy and (insert favorite deity here) knows, the lows…were low. Right now, however, it’s time to celebrate. It’s time to honor those lows and learn from them, as they were every bit as important as the highs in the success. Celebrate.
Because that’s how Mike would have wanted it. Rest in peace, brother.