In one short week, I received palpable reminders of what love is all about

  • attending a surprise celebration for my former church choir director and organist, Westminster Presbyterian, in West Chester, PA;
  • the launch of my signature speech and introduction of my“The 7 Keys for your Great Corporate Escape;”
  • and upon my return home to NC, learning of the tragic head-on collision which claimed the lives of two of my dearest friends and neighbors.

Here are a few of those reminders: (or, should we call them lessons?)

Now is all there is

Several months ago when I learned that the choir was going to surprise Bob Morris and Glenn Kinckner by commissioning a piece of music dedicated to them in honor of their exceptional dedication and service to the church, my first inclination was to say, “I would love to go, but I can’t really afford to make a trip up there.” I could hear Suze Orman’s voice in my ear asking, “Is it a need or a want?”

I knew this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events, and what better way to show them how much they and the choir has meant to me over the years. Knowing that I had several open invitations for a place to stay, I decided to somehow find the funds.

It was a glorious day I will never forget. Typical of Bob—when he saw me in the congregation, he mouthed the words, “Why aren’t you singing with us?” A few minutes later—he found out why. As Bob got up to direct the 100 choir members (no surprise, everyone made a point to be there that Sunday), he was told to sit down by the pastor. Not only was Bob and Glenn truly surprised, but was blown away when the composer, K. Lee Scott appeared to direct the choir in his new original work dedicated to them “O Send Out Your Light.”

Any doubt I made the right decision dramatically vanished the very next day as I arrived home to learn of my friends Adele and Jack Kightlinger’s death. (By the way, Suze does say, “People first…”)

Cards, calls, hugs and other acts of kindness

I am struck how seemingly inconsequential gestures of caring add up. As we shared memories of Adele and Jack this week, we realized they often were the ones knocking on the door of a brand new resident. Sure, I knew they did that for me, but I didn’t realize they did it for everyone. This simple act went a long way in helping so us feel welcome in our new home.

Adele was known for spontaneously sharing special goodies with the people around her. If someone had just come out of the hospital or was feeling under the weather—Adele was right there with a plate of something. (And, she was a terrific cook and baker to boot!)

One of the things I loved about the Westminster Choir was the way you always felt special. On any given Sunday, there could be between 50 and 80 singing. But you never felt like a small fish swimming in a big pond. If you weren’t there, you were missed. When Bob would see you the next week, “Where have you been—missed you.” or, “Look who’s back!” And at choir rehearsal, we would regularly share prayer requests and sing Happy Birthday to those with a birthday that week (in 4 part harmony, of course).

Gone too soon

Many times this week I heard myself thinking, “I only knew Adele and Jack two years; it wasn’t long enough.” Then I realized, suppose I didn’t move here and didn’t become friends with them? As I mentioned in my eulogy, I am choosing to focus on the two years I did have with them. I guess when we allow ourselves to feel love it means we risk grieving if we lose them. But for me, the trade-off is worth it. I am honored to have known them for whatever time I had with them.

Recognize when love is given back to you

When you start a new business, there are a lot of firsts. When I decided to go out of my comfort zone and present my signature speech in front of a live audience, a fear quickly cropped up—suppose no one shows up?

Not only did I have 8 people attend my dress rehearsal here in Asheville, but I had 22 people take the time to attend my program in Delaware. When I think back to who attended, they were people who know me or knew of me through others. I felt the love and the caring they showed me by their presence. Thank you all again.

The folks here in our townhome community know that Adele was a special friend to me. I can’t tell you the number of people who have called or stopped in to ask how I’m doing. We have learned that our community means more than just doing activities together—it means caring and being here for each other.

Of all people

Upon hearing about Adele and Jack’s death, I heard someone comment, “…of all people.” I knew what they meant. They were role models of how to live life. They showed love to their family, were thoughtful and giving to their friends and were of service to those in need.

Somehow we want to believe that such good and wonderful people don’t die early or don’t suffer any difficulties. We know that is not true–we all have had pain in our lives, the good sometimes die young and there seems to be many imbalances of fairness in the world. But I can’t help but want others to say the same about me when I die, “…of all people.”

***

Lessons and reminders are one thing—but what will I do differently?

I will pick up the phone, send a card or email when a friend comes to my mind. How many times I have thought about a friend or someone in my family and failed to write that note or call them. I am reminded of the importance not to put it off.

I will continue to offer little acts of care to those around me while they are alive. I will say thank you more often. (See below for some of my first efforts.)

I will allow others to show their gift of love to me. I would much rather be the one to appreciate other people than to accept when those acts are sent back to me. If we all did that, however, we prevent others from giving their precious gift of love. It needs to be a complete cycle.

I will admit when I need some support instead of suffering in silence. This is a tough one for many people—including me. Just the other day as I was grieving and feeling close to tears all day, my friend Kathy called. Luckily, she didn’t accept my weak, “I’m fine” and challenged me by saying, “No, you’re not–let’s get together.” We did and I felt much better after a few minutes of sharing.

I will live a life the way I want to be remembered. Bob, Glenn, Adele and Jack are examples of people who live their passion and values every day. You don’t have to be a Mother Theresa to make a difference. We all have unique gifts, how can you share them with others? How will you let people know you care about them? What is the legacy you want to leave?

I will drive more carefully. We know that speed was a factor with the other driver and perhaps she took her eyes off the road for just a split second. We’ve all done it—I know I have. It only takes a second to change our lives forever.

My wish is that this serves as a reminder for you for what is important in yourlife. I would love to hear what you have taken away after reading this and/or your own intentions. Please make your comments on my blog.

A special thank you to Bob and Glenn

I remember walking into the choir room for my very first rehearsal that first Thursday. Even though the room was filled with people, I felt welcomed. You took the time to introduce me to others and immediately I felt apart of something special.

The choir continues to grow and attract new members—it is obvious why. Not only is it because they want to sing with such exceptionally talented leaders, your passion is contagious, you demonstrate your love for everyone and God in everything you do.

Whether it is singing in a Christmas concert, a memorial service, the Choir trip to Europe—the many memories and friendships will always be a special place in my heart.

In Memory of Adele and Jack Kightlinger

Many of my friends thought I was crazy to move to a new location without knowing anyone. Adele and Jack quickly became special friends, not only in the neighborhood, but attending the same church.

Adele was one of my biggest fans. She was the one who encouraged me to hold regular Group Coaching sessions for the neighbors and she often reminded me how much she has learned from me. In turn, she was my role model for living with grace and loving life.

Before we met them, Jack was the official White House Photographer from President Johnson through President Reagan and Adele spent many years as an RN. Jack was smitten with Adele ever since they were 13 in grade school—surely soul mates for their entire lives. You couldn’t meet any more unassuming, warm and caring people who were proud of what they have achieved, but lived for the people they loved, including their three children and four grandchildren.

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