Sometimes it takes a funeral to put life in its proper perspective.
At the end of one’s story, what really matters? How is success defined? By the size of one’s fortune? By the number of degrees earned or honors bestowed? By the level of fame achieved?
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a funeral that celebrated the life of my friend’s father. I heard the story of a man who lived the American Dream. He started a small community bank in the early 70s and grew it into a company with more than 1.25 billion dollars in assets today. He was a devoted husband, proud father and grandfather. He was a pillar of the community, giving generously to worthy causes and serving as a church leader. The church was packed with family, friends and community members who braved a blizzard, accumulating more than 18 inches of snow, to honor his life.
As I listened to his loved ones tell stories about him, I was struck by a common theme. He was not remembered for his achievements, but for his kindness. In the end, it is not the lines on one’s resume that really matters. It is about love given and received.
One of his favorite sayings was: “Success is a Marathon.” Having completed one marathon in my life, I think I understand this analogy. I remember committing to a plan, mapping out my long runs and preparing both mentally and physically for the race. During the actual marathon, there were times of euphoria when my steps felt light and easy, experiencing what is called a “runner’s high.” I also remember a time when I looked at my watch and realized that I still had hours to go and a cramp in my side. . . I will never forget the final stretch, which was a slight incline, but it felt like I was scaling a mountain with thighs made of heavy lead. Other runners had fallen and were literally crawling up the hill to reach the finish line. It takes grit and determination to finish a marathon and to experience success.
This last week has not been an easy stretch. My dad was back in the hospital and I found myself facing some discouraging challenges. I felt uninspired to write about gratitude or to write period. But, the funeral served as a beautiful reminder that success is a marathon.
For me, my ultimate goal is to succeed in living a loving life. When times get dark and heavy, you need to keep your eyes focused on your goal and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Oh, and lots of prayers help, too.