In the last week John and I traveled to a funeral in Iowa, and watched another one via live stream when Hurricane Dorian threatened Florida. Yes, I’m talking about death, not because I’m trying to bring you down. Quite the opposite, in fact. I want to talk about these funerals because it’s in mourning and paying tribute to those who have died that we learn more about how to live.
Barb Lauters was an 80-year old mom of six, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of 10. She lived a life of service and not just to her family. She was a nurse, Regional Director of the Girls Scouts in Southwest Kansas responsible for spearheading an extensive fundraising and travel abroad program for the girls, and a serial volunteer for several community organizations and her church. Her legacies are her close and devoted family and all the people she touched through kindness and commitment. And how fiercely she loved.
Jordan Braunschweiger was a 46-year old husband and father of two little girls, ages six and eight. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live. He lived for another four and a half years, teaching all of us to fight like hell for what’s important and never give up. His legacies are the family and friends he touched through his devotion, and the unmistakable match made in heaven with Rachael that created Lia and Simone. And how fiercely he loved.
These lives are two very different stories. One living a full life of watching a family tree grow into great-grandchildren. The other losing a heroic battle; the rabbi at the funeral likened Jordan’s life and untimely death to Franz Schubert’s unfinished symphony—although never completed, still a masterpiece. Although their tributes may seem different on the surface, there’s a common theme.
Each of our legacies, and what’s really important in life, is not about what you leave in your bank account or your title at work. It’s not about the size of your house or how much stuff you fill it with. And it’s certainly not about your waist size or the size of your social media followers.
What people talked about as they said goodbye to Barb and Jordan was how they made them feel. How they inspired others through their unimaginable courage and endless optimism. How they served others because other humans were so important to them. The stories that were shared and will continue to be treasured were not about grand gestures, but how these two beautiful souls lived every day. Days filled with human connection. And fierce love.
Now that the official end of summer is behind us, many of us have a heightened sense of urgency and pressure to reach goals we’ve set for ourselves this year and tackling long to-do lists. You know I’m a big fan of slaying goals and getting to the important and often challenging tasks that will help us do it. But let’s make sure we honor Barb and Jordan—whether you knew them or not—by remembering to make time everyday for meaningful human connection, for fighting for what’s most important to us. And loving fiercely.
Because amidst all the things, and noise and to-do’s and nonsense, it’s all about love.