Tag Archives: Experiences

The Eulogy Virtues

16 Jul

Grove BrameOn July 4th we said goodbye to our friend, Grove Brame. Lost too soon at 59 to the same form of brain cancer that has taken two other good friends in recent years. While it is close to impossible to find anything positive in such a tragedy, there are lessons to be learned and messages to be reinforced.

The thing that struck me during the service was how little airtime was allocated to Grove’s enormous list of accomplishments. He was a classic “up by the bootstraps” corporate success story, spending a storied career at Dr. Pepper that included too many promotions and accolades to track. Grove was also an amazing athlete and scratch golfer that you somehow didn’t mind losing to over and over again.

He spent forty years knocking down goals and building an envious resume. In the end, no one seemed to care about those things. Instead, what we heard about during his funeral was what we consider to be common virtues. The personal stories that were told were always about some kindness, about the way he made the storyteller feel, about some casual good deed, or about something funny he had done.

Grove was generous. He was kind. He was a great listener. He could fit with any crowd. Grove was a great father, stepfather, husband, brother, brother-in-law, and friend. These are the virtues of the eulogy. The ones that define a life and the person that lived it. In the end, it is character that matters.

I’ll readily admit to spending the last twenty-five plus years building my own resume. I, too, have a long list of accomplishments of which I am quite proud. And I do not intend to stop doing the work I love, hoping for success and maybe some recognition along the way. You may be doing the exact same thing.

Resume accomplishments are typically marked by readily identifiable milestones. The graduation, promotion, raise, award, and championship can all be celebrated. We pursue these and rejoice at the achievement. The eulogy virtues are acquired more subtly. There is no celebratory milestone for learning to practice empathy. We do not get an award for honing character to a certain level. They don’t give out black belts in compassion. The rewards for the development of the eulogy virtues are intrinsic.

The hard lesson from Grove’s death is that we should think about how we balance our investment of time. We should consciously work to develop the eulogy virtues just as aggressively as we pursue the resume accomplishments. These are not mutually exclusive pathways to personal development. Both are worthy goals, but one without the other is probably not the legacy you want to leave.

We can all honor Grove’s memory by bringing some balance to the task of creating better versions of ourselves and critically evaluating if we are having a positive impact on the lives of others. Aloha friend.

 

 

A Fish Story

18 Aug

 

A fox walking on the beach had drawn him out of the cabin into the gray, pre-dawn light. The fire had gone out during the night, but the cabin was warm compared with the chill of the morning. He grabbed at his coat and hugged himself to suppress a shiver in what he thought was silence.

Slowly he became aware of the faint sound of water falling off the mountain a mile across the bay. As his ears were straining to hear the cascade, a whale breached with a whoosh and a spray of water. Then the resident seal splashed at the end of the spit, a gull cried, and a salmon jumped, as salmon do, for reasons known only to salmon. This was not silence; it was a natural symphony played just for him.

The boy and the old man were still asleep in the cabin. The adrenaline from yesterday’s encounter with the bear had worn off leaving the man with a slightly hung-over feeling. He was not hooked on danger as some people said. He was simply a collector of life experiences and the more exciting the better.

The bear had popped out of the brush thirty feet from where they were fishing and challenged their right to extract fish from the stream. The ensuing war of wills, strong words, and a few thrown rocks had convinced the bear to find another fishing spot. The man was triumphant and the boy was exhilarated, but the old man did not like that kind of excitement.

Today was a new day. The stunning natural beauty of the place was worth the pain and suffering and potential bear attacks. Today he would teach the boy how to fill a freezer, how to cast and how to set a hook, how to keep a tight line, how to talk among men, how to casually handle discomfort, and how to make it all look easy. It was also a day for him to show the old man that real life is not lived in the living room. No one ever complains of cold, or rain, or sea sickness, or sore muscles, or wet socks when they are reeling in a monster. The rush of emotion when a big fish strikes is indescribable.

The man snapped to when he realized that the sun was coming up over the water. He said a soft goodbye to the seal and set off to continue the boy’s unfinished education in adventurous living. He wanted to make sure that his son was conscious of his choices. You rarely encounter bears or land a fish that weighs more than you do while sitting in an easy chair. Neither of them was ever going to get old.

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