When someone dies tragically, all that seems important reveals itself, all our endeavors become secondary, and for a brief moment we stop and think about ourselves, our own life story.
If this tragedy was the conclusion my life, what would they say at my funeral? And what really would be important? Was I a great scientist, teacher, philosopher, novelist, CEO? Or was I a good wife and friend; kind, honest, compassionate, striving   to always better myself? Yesterday, I attended a funeral. I felt great sadness and regret. My neighbor was struck by a car and killed. At the grave-site, according to Jewish tradition, there is a path that friends and neighbors form to comfort the mourners as they conclude the burial. In this case, the mourners, a wife and a daughter, began to walk down the path. Yet out of the 100 or so attendees, only 2 reached out to comfort them in the passing of their husband and father. We all stood, waiting for each other, wondering, not knowing these mourners well enough to hold their hand, give them a hug, reach out, express our love. We all stood, paralyzed with fear. It became apparent that many of the people there knew the wife as an acquaintance the daughter not at all as she was not from the area. Did they care just enough to attend as almost a token appearance, I wondered?
When I arrived home, I had deep regret within myself, for not reaching out, and was discouraged with the nature of people. It was clear to me that except for those two individuals, we were all cowards. What would it have taken for us to reach out to a stranger? What held us back from giving? What does it take to overcome fear?
My husband and I have recently began asking one another what the high-point and low-point of our day is. This day, it was clear the low-point was my failure to be courageous and comfort a neighbor. After I told him, My husband someone who always reaches beyond the ordinary and does not stop when it seems that the story is over pointed out I could rectify this failure and encouraged me to go to the home of the bereaved, apologize for my inaction, and hug them right then and there. I knew in my heart, he, my inspiration to go beyond my ordinary limitations, was correct. I had to do this. I said, "OK " and we proceeded to their apartment. On the way, a walk of less than 25 yards, I told him, "I was scared to death." Yet I understood that fear is a cowardly excuse to avoid what we must do.
I knocked on the door as my heart raced out of control. When I entered, a few people were in the apartment and there was not much privacy. I signaled to the daughter to ask if I could speak with her alone. This was our first personal meeting and I did not know her. I told her, as tears fell down my face, "I am sorry that I was not brave enough to comfort you and that you walked that path alone. I loved your father and I am so sorry for your grief and pain." She cried and we held each other, total strangers. She said she understood; that this happened because nobody knew her. Yet somehow I still fill this was a terrible excuse.
When we arrived back home, I had more clarity. I realized that on the other-side of the low-point, the high-point of my day was hiding. On the other-side of fear, is the incredible feeling of joy; of connecting with a stranger and giving her comfort at the most important time of her life, the death of a parent. It felt awesome to become aware that inside the seemingly negative, there is a tremendous opportunity for love, gratefulness, joy.
What is a life? Isn't it just a series of days, one after another. But if that is the case, then what we do with each day is critical. Yet how many times do we wake up and think to ourselves, what will I do today that is critical to summary of my life? What will I say, what will I read, what will I allocate my time to?
If we really understood how critical each day was; that what we pick up to read or watch on TV would not be done lightly. Is it really necessary to watch American Idol? Would people be taking about that at our funeral? .
If we had this keen awareness, we would be very careful about how we spend our day, and, for that matter, each hour. Spend is a verb, and an appropriate one at that. We each have a limit on the Credit/Debit Cards of our lives. Isn't it time to wake up and not spend them on trivialities?
Maybe during our day, we should stop every so often and ask ourselves, how can I make it better? What could I have done that was brave? Did I miss the opportunity to comfort someone because of fear? Did I miss an opportunity to help someone because of laziness? Am I ignoring how stressed my employees are because I'm too busy telling the world how successful I am. Did I rule against a party because I knew the attorney for the defendant? Have I missed an opportunity to add to the story of my life?
Let Today begin the story of our life!