Al's gone. You can fight an indomitable foe like pancreatic cancer only so long. A 10-month battle filled with needles, IV bags, nausea and vomiting, but also with meaningful time with friends and family, a determination to stay alive, and laughter ... lots of laughter. Mercifully, his end came swiftly, unlike most who get this label, and oddly, it took many of us by surprise. Al was there, still a force, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend ... and then he wasn't.
And there was a huge void; and the world of so many was changed forever.
And they came. By the hundreds they came to tell his family what Al meant to them. And here is the legacy Al left me. What matters is how you touch the lives of others.
Al accomplished much in life. He was hard working and a clever businessman. He was very successful. However, in the halls of the funeral home, church and restaurant where we gathered, I didn't once hear any of that. We tend to lionize those who have passed, but not once did I hear something about Al that wasn't absolutely consistent with my own experience.
"He made you feel like you were his best friend."
"His laughter, that's what I'll miss most."
"He lit up any room he entered."
"He was a good friend to me."
There were many mini eulogies like this, and all I could do was nod and smile. What a legacy Al left us. What matters is how you touch the lives of others; how you make their lives better, however little, but better. Al didn't pick and choose whom he touched in this way. It was everyone he met.
The Dalai Lama tells us all that really matters is being kind and and compassionate to all we meet. Al never met or even read the Dalai Lama, but he got it. He understood that's what really matters.
So, if you would like to live in the hearts and minds of others after you ceased walking the earth, remember Al, and follow these "Al Tips."
Four Ways to Succeed as a Human
1. Whoever you meet on your journey, look them in the eyes ... the window to the soul. You might even try to imagine what their life is like, but as a minimum, acknowledge their value and worth by seeing them. Many believe that the spiritual significance of the traditional Hindu greeting of Namaste is itself an acknowledgement of divinity, or the value of the person greeted. You will be surprised how people respond to looking them in the eyes.
2. Give up judging others (In other words, give up the need to be right). This is, in fact, a form of violence against others and an admission of your own insecurity. We all understand that each one of us different; why can't we accept that we each have different beliefs and viewpoints? Respect not only the person, but also what they believe or hold dear. Has the attempt to convince another that they are wrong and you are correct ever ended well?
3. Laugh often ... heartily, at yourself, at the human condition, particularly when you are struggling with a life situation. It keep us healthy, aging better, and it leaves our mark on all we meet. The world definitely needs more laughter.
4. Remind yourself every day, that a successful life is about being, not doing. It's not so much what we accomplish as being mindful that we are alive and are surrounded by other beings, all doing the best they can to live a good life. That thought, will indeed help you be more compassionate.
In the movie The Bucket List, the two main characters, both terminally ill, are sitting atop a pyramid reflecting on life and death. One tells the other that to enter Egyptian heaven one had to answer two questions.
Did you find joy in your life?
Did you bring joy to others?
A better guide to a good life I cannot imagine. You nailed it, Al.