This morning, a quick check of my email stopped me in my tracks.
It seems a friend of my family (actually a distant cousin), of whom I have many fond memories from my childhood, drowned in Lake Erie a few days ago. He was 65. I am profoundly shaken by this, and deeply saddened.
As with most experiences I have had over the last several years of my life, my way of processing the emotions of it seem always to translate into analysis. What's the lesson of this experience? What might I do differently from now on? What could I learn, and what could I teach, from this place of new wisdom (in this case, the phrase "sadder but wiser" surely seems to apply)?
These are the thoughts I have about the loss of my family friend.
First, there's the really obvious one. He was swimming off a small boat, and was not wearing a life jacket. Had he been, he certainly would still be alive today. By the time you know you need your life jacket, it's way too late -- always exercise the greatest caution around boats and water.
Second is the not quite so obvious one. In this particular circumstance, two friends took a boat out on the water, anchored it, and went in for a swim. The anchor failed to hold and the boat got away from them. The friend who survived swam directly for shore. The friend who didn't, swam for the boat -- most likely putting more importance on recovering the errant vessel than on getting directly to safety. Make sure you have your priorities in order, and think before you act - especially when you feel like you don't have time to think.
Third is the subtlest lesson, and maybe the most important of all of them. Tomorrow is promised to no one. I hadn't seen our family friend in years, though I thought of him often. I thought about calling my Dad to get his phone number or his email address, and just never got around to it. I would have loved to see him, talk to him, just shoot the breeze and see what new geeky fun project he was working on this week. But I never did. And now I never can.
Every one of us has someone like that in our lives - and probably several someones. We're probably more likely to catch up with a client or supplier on a consistent basis than with a dear friend. Take a minute today to think about the most important connection you could make, and make it. Don't make excuses about being too busy, and don't wait.
And hey - tell them I said hello.