Is Death The Great Awakener to Life?

At the time of writing this article my wife and I were dealing with saying goodbye to four separate individuals that we loved. People, who made a huge difference in our lives and the lives of so many. People who all had so much more living and giving to do.

A silent and invisible truck rolled into my office crushing me in its wake as I heard the news that my uncle Geoff, a man I loved and deeply respected had died. I did not know he had even been sick as I hadn’t spoken with him in a couple of years.

Of course, I always had the terrible excuse that we lived on different continents. As I read the news of his passing my eyes overflowed with tears and a cascade of memories of our times together filled my heart. Little did I know, that truck was about to back up and repeat its crushing path three more times within the next couple of weeks.

Just over a week later as I was sitting at my desk when I got a call from my wife who was out on the road. I could hear that she was crying as she spoke I could feel my heart sink. “You okay babe? What happened, what’s wrong?”

As she tried to speak I could hear the words being choked in her throat as she tells me that a close friend of ours, someone who was like a brother to her, had gone missing and is presumed dead. That truck silently backs up over me again, pinning me in place.

William’s boat had been found adrift with his keys and wallet on board. As she continued, that semi trailer of grief once more mowed me over and with it came a deafening silence, the kind I only thought existed in movies for effect. “Maddie (his six-year-old daughter) has been found dead floating in the water. No one knows what happened, they can’t find William’s body”.

There was suddenly a crack in the silence through which a tsunami of tears flowed down my face and at lightening speed I went from my own grief to my wife’s grief. The grief of the four other adult children William left behind. Part of me wants to run in and scoop them all up, along with Maddie’s Mom and his ex-wife with whom he continued to have a loving relationship.

It’s a week later now and as I write this I still feel the building waves of sadness for all this loss. My uncle Geoff and our friend William were both extraordinarily kind and generous people who loved with all their heart. Maddie this sweet little girl whose giggles still ring in my ears from when I would speak to her in my “Martian” voice. So much unfulfilled potential that came to a grinding halt.

We all know; life is short, but for most of us it doesn’t really hit home until we lose a loved one. My last book Fiercely Loyal (How high-performing companies develop and retain top talent) was dedicated to the person who is both the first and the fourth of the people we had to say good-bye to.

Shishu Pal Sharma was a follower of the Hindu faith and in that faith, there is a tradition that on the one-year anniversary of the persons passing everyone comes together to remember and pray. That anniversary also came during this two weeks.

Shishu was a man that I’d had the honor of truly connecting with during the last year of his life. Shishu was my wife’s favorite uncle.

When she was a child, his home, along with his loving wife Sheila and their three children was a place where the door was always open, and food was always available. This was also a place where as a young girl my wife could always go because Shishu uncle’s house was a safe place for her. Shishu and Sheila moved from Fiji to Canada as a young family. Their hopes and dreams, similar to that of most immigrant families: to create opportunities and better lives for their children.

I believe that immigrant families often work harder (and longer) than native workers because they see everything as an opportunity, while native workers often take those same opportunities for granted.

However, there is a cost to this immigrant work ethic. All too often the children of the ambitious grow up experiencing very little of their parents as two people who guide them and they can laugh with.

One thing I am sure of is this: What we do while we are here echoes in the lives of our children and all we have touched.

As my wife and I sat with uncle Shishu at his deathbed and discussed the things that his life had taught him, we spoke about the legacy he would be leaving. Not the legacy of assets or finances, but rather the legacy for his children, grandchildren, family, friends and the community he was part of.

What follows is a summary of his message; I share it with you in hopes that it will resonate with you as you contemplate the value of all your relationships and your commitment to them, before it’s to late.

“In a world that can seem dark and overwhelming,

many work hard to attain the things they hope

will bring them laughter, light and love.

We may think that by doing all the things we do,

we will be loved. But in order to be loved,

we must first love!

I know that I have worked hard, and at times

I may have been hard. However, at this time,

I’ve come to realize that it is through the softness of

love shared, that I know the true value of my life.

And so I leave you with this message.

Work is important.

Resentment is a waste.

Ultimately, it is love that is the

jewel in the crown of your life.

It is the love you give and the love you

allow yourself to receive that truly matters!”

~ Shishu Pal Sharma 1943–2014

I trust that you found this valuable if so feel free to send this to your friends. I eagerly anticipate your feedback and comments. Please “like,” “share”, and comment below!

With gratitude,

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