My sense of urgency for putting words to paper is heightened every time I hear of someone who passes away and “just retired in the last couple of years”. The cause does not really matter though unexpected medical conditions seem to be the most frequent culprit. Needless to say, having just gobbled down a handful of vitamins and a protein-rich, anti-oxidant rich, superfood enriched, gluten free smoothie for breakfast, I am giving it my best shot to make sure it doesn’t happen to me.
At the top of the list of people within my circle who died too early is my own father. Extremely hard working, dedicated, loyal and keenly focused, he clearly channeled much of his energy into the workplace. He chose to balance things out with mellow hobbies in his off time to conserve energy for his work. While I understand his rationale was to be a model employee, always bright eyed and bushy tailed for work, sharp and focused …a truly admirable commitment. I often wonder if there wasn’t something else he would have rather been doing in his spare time to let loose, get crazy and let off some steam even though my memory of my Dad was of someone always in control, never breaking character. I secretly wished that he may have had a juicier “bucket list” of activities for his retirement, like sky diving, bungee jumping or rappelling off the side of a mountain, but sadly we will never really know the answer to that. He was diagnosed with lung cancer a few months after retiring, and spent the next 18 months in treatment before the cancer got him at age 60.
Another example was a former manager of mine, a great leader who perfected the art of MBWA (management by walking around) a management style rarely seen in today’s ever-frantic business world. He was the perfect balance of coach, mentor, boss, father and on some days, psychologist. In his situation, it was less than two years after retirement that we heard that he had passed away. We were consoled to hear that it happened while he was doing what he loved most, hunting, and it was not due to an accident, we were told it was heart condition. There is not much one can say or do in a case like that, but respect the gift that every day is, and make the most of it.
Sadly, these two fine gentlemen were not alone. It is not an exaggeration to say I gasp out loud when I hear of someone with retirement recently in their rear view mirror, and who is not be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour and their well deserved time for themselves. It is downright unfair, but at the same time incredibly inspiring to not put everything off until retirement, because you never know.
I interpret these as signs from the universe… neon ones, at that! All I can think of is that it would be sad if similar fortune struck me and I went to the grave with thousands of pages of stories still in my head, or notes still in my journals, undeveloped into the stories that they could have become. Whenever I get great feedback resulting from my writing or compliments on the positive tone that the reader picked up, I can’t help but imagine that if a few words I wrote managed to uplift someone, put a smile on their face, make them chuckle, or perhaps all three, then it was already worth it. If somehow I was able to inspire someone into a positive action, then it was definitely worth the effort to seize the day.