est Georgia Woman has invited me to share some of what I've learned about being a man and a human being in my almost 80 years of living. Now in the latter years of the story of my life, mortality is no abstract idea or far distant reality. I feel the urge to share some lessons learned with my fellow men (and women, too), particularly those discouraged by failure, who may fear they are too damaged or wounded or disheartened to chart their way through this challenging life. Given the great difficulties I faced as a young man, I'm grateful and amazed my life has turned out to be better than I once imagined it might be. While I worked to apply lessons learned from earlier experiences, equally important was my marrying Anne Cohen Richards 49 years ago as she was someone who accepted me for who I was, including the scared, sensitive boy dwelling within the tough, hard-living, really smart man I was back in 1969.
Confronting Mortality At the start of my sophomore year in high school, I left home to live with my grandparents in St. Cloud, Fla. The family I fled followed me there months later. I avoided home by becoming very active in school, spending more time with a loving, Christian family and, having held part-time jobs since I was 12, worked a couple of jobs while leaving time to play football and baseball. One of my jobs was working at a local funeral home. It also had the only ambulance in town and a Mr. Mosher, the driver, and I picked up the dead. It was the 50s and, though a teenager, I helped to embalm and prepare the bodies for viewing and burial. On one occasion, the deceased was a young champion swimmer visiting the town. He was almost my double in height, weight and age. The young man had gone swimming in a local lake and became entangled and trapped in construction material dumped in the lake years earlier. I spent a lot of time in the presence of the dead and the grieving survivors as well. Attending to the corpse of the young athlete was my first really powerful confrontation with the reality of death â€“ and the reality of my own mortality. Many decades later, while driving my truck on Rome Street in Carrollton, I had an intensely real sense of Death sitting in the passenger seat. In a brief conversation, I asked Death how much time I had left. I "heard" him reply, "You'll have just enough time to do what you need to do." A good reason to think of projects that need to be done.
Lesson 1: Death is one of our greatest teachers. We are born dying. It is a fact of life. Death tells us that everything, including ourselves, is impermanent. He laughs at us when we cling desperately to our possessions, reputation and even to those we love. We are here a brief time and we leave. Death says, don't waste a day. Each person, each moment, is precious. Live and love fully, generously, here and now! Be grateful for the givenness of things, for the life you've been given. Say yes, yes, yes to the life you have!
Thank God For Booger Angels When I was small and not quite old enough to go to school, I was invited (for the first time) to a birthday party in my neighborhood. My family moved constantly, and friendships were found and lost continually. (I later attended three different schools in the second grade . . . and failed!). Trapped in a family caught in a cycle of fear and
Death is one of our greatest teachers.
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