I had a great conversation with a friend the other night. For the sake of this story, I will call him “Larry.”
You see, Larry isn’t a very emotional guy. He is stoic and the phrase “he wears his heart on his sleeve” would never be used to describe him. Larry is a thinker, a risk taker, a man of action. His success has been marked by multiple failures that would cripple many of us. He has amazing perspective and many who don’t know or like him might say he is cold or calculating. Larry reminds me a of “The Terminator” with his precise actions and efficient words that are never wasted in trivial matters.
Our conversation began at another friend’s 40th birthday party. After a few Coors Lights, I asked Larry how he and his family were doing. He has 4 or 5 kids, so that is always an exciting question. I joke about the number of kids, because he has been very blessed in that department. We shared little more than small talk at this point.
However, the remainder of our conversation, though somewhat unfitting for a 40th birthday celebration, inspired me. I asked Larry how his father was doing. I knew the answer to a degree. His father is ill. Terminally ill. I was hesitant to ask, but I really did want to know. His answer to my question was remarkable. I wasn’t expecting to get a lesson on dying.
He spent 30 minutes talking about his father’s life, the lessons he had learned from him, and the illness that was promising to take his life soon. I saw something in Larry I had never seen…I saw his heart on his sleeve. Larry didn’t cry or anything, but he proceeded to tell me how his father is living each day with the same character and resolve that defined his life prior to his illness. Larry showed emotion.
In a sentence, he explained it best, “It’s funny, my father has taught me so much in my life, and now he is showing me how to die.”
The conversation was much more than just that sentence, but the succinct way he put that stuck with me. His statement hit me hard, and made me wonder if I was teaching my kids lessons in life that they can pass on to their kids. I want to be a better father as a result of my conversation with Larry. I want to teach my kids about living, so when the dying comes around, they will have perspective and strength to deal with it.
His lesson on dying was really a lesson on living.