At the beginning of September, I traveled with my family to Nebraska to celebrate our nephew Zach’s marriage to Tori. On arriving that Thursday evening, we were met with the sad news of the death of a long time family friend, Bud Oltman. So an unplanned Saturday morning funeral was added to a weekend already full of activity.
Reflections from the Wedding
I’ve known Zach from birth and have been fortunate to watch him grow into the handsome, intelligent and caring man he is today. While I’ve known Tori for only a few years, it has become clear to me in the months leading up to their wedding, that she is the perfect match for Zach. What an honor and privilege to witness this young couple commit all that they are and all that they have to each other for a lifetime.
This special family event confirmed and reinforced three realities I’ve learned (and am still learning) about family, personal and work life:
- We are meant to be part of a team. By design, we are not meant to go through life alone. Life is better, more complete, and more fulfilling when lived alongside others. When we are young, the love and support of our families helps us grow and prepare for life. Marriage provides a very special, intimate form of companionship, where one complements and supports the other. As part of a team, we accomplish more, endure more, and leave more to the next generation. We all need to look for ways to strengthen the teams of which we are fortunate to be a part.
- We must have a shared vision for the future. All teams need to discuss and share a vision for their future lives together, answering questions about plans for work, finances, succession, and the values for which they stand. This vision needs to be spoken “out loud” to avoid hidden agendas. Listening to one another is required to find common ground. Progress needs to be measured and the vision adjusted to accommodate the future as it unfolds.
- Success in life requires sacrifice. Putting the interest of others ahead of your own is hard because we are selfish by nature. But if our teams are going to function well and succeed, we cannot live under the rule of “everyone for themselves.” This kind of sacrifice demands our patience and willingness to delay gratification. It necessitates our submission to the majority decision of the team. And it requires that we trust our team mates to follow our example and care for us as we care for them.
Reflections from the Funeral
I have known Bud Oltman most of my life. Bud was one of the founding members of the Church of the Holy Spirit. I grew up in that church and my wife and I were married there. But for 27 years, I’ve been returning as a guest whenever I’ve traveled home to visit my family. And over that time, Bud never failed to greet me warmly, shake my hand, and ask about my life and family. It was genuine and I knew he cared and meant what he said. Like all of us do, I believed Bud’s friendship and warmth for me would go on forever. But obviously that is not the case.
As I attended Bud’s funeral, I heard that his care and concern was not limited to me. As I listened to the reports of Bud’s consistent and encouraging presence in the lives of his wife, his children and grandchildren, I wondered about what I can do to receive similar reports when it’s my turn. And as I sat next to my own father at Bud’s funeral, I wondered what I can do to prepare for the time when he too completes his time on earth. Here are the three thoughts that came to my mind:
- You can never get ready. But you can get “ready-er.” The future always seems to arrive before we expect it. Stop thinking that there is plenty of time because it’s not true. Don’t wait to say, “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” Don’t let conflict stand between you and those that matter to you. Don’t let money or things or work be more valuable to you than the people in your life. You can’t get completely ready for the end, but with the rest of the time you have left get as ready as you possibly can.
- Pour yourself into the lives of others. Identify and develop your successor even though you’re nowhere near ready to hand over the reins. Teach others what you know and let them teach you, too. Be encouraging and positive to others. Keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Better still stop having negative thoughts. Remember names and birthdays. Show your support to your team mates. Celebrate their accomplishments. Sit quietly with them during difficult and sad times. Invest your life in others.
- Don’t overlook the small things. Bud’s warm smile, firm handshake, and genuine interest in me and my family are small things that seem to matter little. But in my life they really mattered. And I know his example had an impact on me. I never had a chance to thank Bud for his care and concern. But I can honor him by carrying on his legacy. And perhaps I can comfort and encourage his wife and family by letting them know how Bud’s enthusiasm for the small things lives on.
We will continue to help our clients succeed by coming together, rather than pulling apart. In the meantime, if you have ideas or experiences on this subject, please post them so others can benefit. Thank you!