I had a very unusual speaking engagement Friday, May 8, 2009. Although I was highly honored to be invited to speak, I was very saddened by the occasion. As a part of the eulogy, I spoke at the funeral of one of my best friends. David Rush was 56 years young. He died from a heart attack that occurred while he was mowing his lawn.
David became my friend after he was appointed to the hospital board, where I was CEO, over 30 years ago. He became an excellent board member and a superb friend. As I reflected on our over 30 years of friendship, and as I prepared my remarks for the eulogy, I was once again vividly reminded and confronted with the undeniable fact that time is extremely short, limited and very uncertain. Your legacy and my legacy will be completed and carved in stone before we know it. Your opportunity to achieve and enjoy success (however you define success) and to contribute to the lives of your family, friends, colleagues, customers and the communities in which you are involved will be over before you know it… literally, in the flash of an eye, from a historical perspective.
Unfortunately, for many reasons, most people do not take the time… from time to time… to step back… way back… and seriously reflect on what is truly most important in life. Fear of the reality of death and the unknown tops the list as to why most people avoid spending serious time reflecting on what is most important in life and the urgency with which we should be pursuing what is most important. Consciously or unconsciously, whether we like it or not, day by day we are all creating the legacy that will determine our ultimate and lasting success… or lack thereof… in life.
The first eulogy speaker was one of David’s three sons who spoke on behalf of himself and the family. He tearfully, joyfully and respectfully said many of the things you would expect a loving son to say about his father, including personal and family issues and memories. The second speaker represented city hall and the community of Duncanville, Texas. He enumerated numerous contributions David made over the years as a member of the planning and zoning commission and as a person very much engaged and focused on improving his community for the benefit of all.
Then it was my turn. Between and after appropriate prayers and singing throughout the service, the Catholic Priest addressed the appropriate spiritual and eternal issues, so I did not need to go there. As I made my way to the front of the church and faced David’s widow, the immediate and extended family, and a church full of friends and colleagues, I simply spoke from my heart. I shared the following “lessons learned from David Rush,”providing specific personal information and stories to document and reinforce each lesson learned from David’s life and his contributions to others. The lessons learned were as follows:
- Like David, be a true friend in every sense of the word.
- Like David, be a servant leader. David was a servant leader long before the term became a major buzz word throughout the world of leadership and success.
- Like David, be a person of integrity.
- Like David, take time to listen to your friends and colleagues. Sometimes it is best to just shut up and listen.
- Like David, be yourself. “In a world where you can be anything you want to be, be yourself.”
- Like David, stay calm, cool and quietly handle life’s circumstances as they come your way.
- Like David, seek out, fall in love with and marry a spectacular person. No question, David married up. Way up! It served him, and all the people he served very well.
- Like David, take time while you have health and energy to pursue your passions. David loved and pursued nature, the outdoors and the wonders of planet earth and the universe. He loved America the Beautiful, National Parks, National Monuments, State Parks and a million other things and areas of the world including Ireland.
- Like David, it can and will be over in a flash. Now is the time and this is the place. You may have no other! Someday soon, for certain, you will have no other. If it’s to be, it’s up to me and the time and place is now!
Find or make some time, some serious time, and make it soon, to ask and answer some of the most important life and success questions you will ever encounter:
- Why am I here?
- What is my purpose?
- What is my mission?
- Is my life and are my actions focused on service to others rather than self?
- Given my unique characteristics, qualities, interests, talents, abilities and passions, what are the most important contributions I can make?
- What will my spouse, son or daughter think, remember, most appreciate and say at my funeral and long thereafter?
- What will a colleague who has known me for over 30 years think, remember, most appreciate and say at my funeral and long thereafter?
- What will be my legacy and lasting impact on my family, friends and community?
Please note that these questions are not about me, me, me! They are about serving, contributing and enhancing the lives of others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing well by doing good. In fact, doing well by doing good is healthy for all. These questions are about your focus, your intent and your heart. Your success… your life’s harvest… is directly and irrevocably tied to your answers to these questions and to the actions you take, day in and day out, relative to each of these questions.
I am a better person, living a more successful life, serving others in a better community because of the life, actions and legacy of David Rush. Will the same be said of you? It is not too late to revise and influence the impact of what you define as “success” and what you determine will be your life legacy! Now is the time. This is the place. Like David, the time will soon come for each of us when we have no more time on planet earth…