My brother, John, passed away several years ago. As is common when such a tragic event occurs, I stopped to reflect on my brother’s life. Were there lessons I could learn to help me be a better man? Were there insights on life and business that I could pass on to others? I believe so. This is the third in a series of three articles on those lessons and insights.
John was eighteen years my senior. He graduated from high school the year I was born. He played cards and drank his way through one semester of college before joining the Army and serving in Korea during war time. Because of our age difference, I didn’t really get to know my brother until I was a young teenager. He married a few times, had four children, loved his family, enjoyed hunting, fishing and keeping to himself, served our country in time of war and appeared confident that he was the strongest, smartest guy in the room.
As with most siblings, there were things about my brother that I didn’t like, but I loved and respected him until the end.
It was only two weeks from the time my brother was diagnosed until he passed away. Cancer. He smoked most of his life. The cancer started in his lungs and spread rapidly to other parts of his body.
The third of the three lessons learned from my brother was this: Nurture your relationships.
Our family has not always done a good job of this. When my mother passed away many years ago, our family communication began to degrade. She was the hub of the wheel in terms of family communication. We all talked to her, and she kept us informed on what everyone else was doing. Very convenient. The siblings and extended family didn’t have to call one another. Now days, it’s “Hey Siri.” Back then it was “Hey Mom.” My brother’s passing caused us to recommit to greater family unity and more frequent communication.
Personal communication, whether in person (more challenging in the era of COVID), via phone, video call, email, text or a hand-written note, helps us sustain our most important relationships. Plan time each week to take a few minutes and think of folks, in both your business and personal life, that you know could use a kind word, a thank you or with whom you haven’t communicated in a while. “I’m too busy for that” or “They are too busy for that” or “It’s weird to just call for no reason”, you may be thinking. Don’t overthink it. Just do it! Set aside time to make the call or write a note. Again, just like scheduling a meeting. I am always amazed at how much good comes out of this activity. The people we call will be thankful and appreciative, and I always feel better knowing I’ve served others in some small way.
When our life on earth is done, it isn’t money and material things that matter. We can’t take those with us and the very few of the people we leave behind will continue to consider those things important. Our memories of our most important relationships, however, the influence those folks had on us and us on them, will live on inside us all.
The words below are spoken as the military honor guard presents the U.S. flag to the next of kin.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service”
I love you John. Thank you for your service to family and country. Your legacy lives on.