Friday, December 27, 2013

Lessons Learned

In 2013, I lost three people who were very important to me. I’m not sure each of them knew how much they influenced my life, but I do know that their tremendous spirits will live on in me, in my life and in my home.

I first met Mr. Myers* at his home that Michael rented for years. I ended up living there for a couple of years, too. In fact, a few of us did and it always felt like family. The rent was cheap, the house had seen better days and we (the “tenants” aka his “kids”) were more than happy to be labor for any Mr. Myers project. And he had projects. To this day, when Michael and I are working on a project I ask: “Do we want to do it right or the Mr. Myers way?” Meaning:  Do we want to do it by the letter of the instruction, or get it done and working? Mr. Myers taught me how to solder copper pipe and other handy skills, but I learned more from him. I learned that a house doesn’t have to be perfect to be warm and full of love. I’m sad that I never had him over to see our home because I know that I would have been quick to point out every flaw and mistake we have made, and he would have been even quicker to overlook them.

Santo lived his life to the fullest. He ate well, drank well and everything tasted better when he was surrounded by family and friends. He was always a little louder and a little messier than everyone else. He captured everything in photos and felt true joy in sharing those photos with everyone around him. He was unabashedly himself… always. He was the husband of my father-in-law’s best friend from grade school. Clearly not a direct link to me, but he was my family and I was his. Knowing him and his family reinforced what we all already know—your family is in the friends you have and the family you make. And, your family will love you for you—crumbs, spilled wine and whatever else gets dropped or falls during the telling of a really good story. That, and take photos. Lots of photos.

John was a professional colleague of mine who became my mentor and friend. We were separated by generations and geography, but shared a passion for our work. When I first met John, there were a few of our colleagues that were not necessarily welcoming to me. John always met me with his kind eyes and a warm heart. He inspired me and encouraged me, and I think in a small way I reminded him of his past. John taught me focus. To focus on those who are supportive of you, to focus on your mission, to focus on friends and to focus on what matters. We live in a cluttered world, and John lived a very focused life.

While I realize I was so lucky to have these three amazing men in my life, it was hard to say goodbye this year. But, I won’t really. I promise to live out what I learned from each of them. This year, and every year.

* Even though he preferred that we call him by his first name, Michael and I can’t help but use the formal. While he was never a formal man, Michael met him when he was young and the name stuck.