A QBQ! Reflection: Life is Short … and Good

There are events that cause us to do some serious reflecting, aren’t there?

A gentleman the Millers knew passed away Saturday.

I can’t say he was my “friend,” since I’d only shaken his hand a few times. I do recall him standing in our rec room in May 2008 shooting pool at my 50th birthday party. I really only knew him because my wife, Karen, and his wife are friends—and have the same circle of friends. As often is the case, women have circles that are bigger and wider than their men, so it was through these relationships that Karen and others supported this man and his family during their struggle.

He was a nice guy in his forty’s, I think about 45. I really never knew him well, but what I do know is ALS hit him three to four years ago, and that “Lou Gehrig’s” disease—man, there’s just no stopping it.

It was a long, slow slide that ended over the weekend, with his best friend and young daughters at his bedside.

And now, a husband, a dad, a friend is gone.

Way too soon.

Life is funny when it comes to timing, isn’t it? And I don’t mean “ha ha” funny, but the ironic sort of funny. We’ve known of his illness since it began. Yet, about the same minute his pain ended and he moved on to a better place, our son, Michael, and his bride of three hours, Casey Mae, climbed into a limo for a fun ride heading toward a night in Denver before flying somewhere warm for their honeymoon.

An ending, a beginning. Maybe not as stark a contrast as a last breath and a baby’s birth, but pretty stark.

And it makes me think, and feel. This recent post on being thankful sums up some of my emotions—but there are more …

Such as, I’m so glad my best friend, Karen, is still by my side and I am still by hers. And 6-month-old “Becca Boo” is good! If you don’t know her story, read it here. Then there’s 3-year-old Josh, The First QBQ! Grandchild, who is as high-energy as ever. Tara, Miller Child #2, is “with child,” due in July and surely showing it. And, she and hubby, Justin, who fought in Fallujah, Iraq in 2007 and returned safely just moved to Colorado!

And there’s Molly, #4 in the Miller chain, age 22 and married to pastor-in-training, Ricardo, who performed Saturday’s ceremony. She’s so much like me we butt heads, but that’s okay, I’m just glad to have her around. And Kristin and Erik, busily building the little ones mentioned above. Lastly, the teens: Charlene, Jazzy, and Tasha. So full of life … and future.

It does this husband, father, and grandpa good to have them here for a few days, all under one roof. And it makes me think—hard.

“Life is short” is an axiom—a self-evident truth that requires no proof—we hear often and for the man now gone, it was too true. But there is another worth remembering:

Life is good.

So so good. Anyone want to disagree? I didn’t think so.

So, give someone you love a big squeeze. Do it for yourself, do it for them, and do it for the Colorado family left behind.

Then, go ahead and have an outstanding week—but before you do, share your thoughts and feelings in the Comments section below. We’d love to hear them.

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39 Responses

  1. My father passed away from ALS 8 years ago at the age of 51. His form was a rare one, so much so that they misdiagnosed him at first with Parkinson’s. His mind deteriorated before his body. It was the saddest thing to watch for me.

    I am often reminded of him and the fragility of life, but never more so than when our daughter was born.

    Here was a completely helpless being brought into the world, dependent on us. At the very same hospital, a baby was born prematurely and died. Our daughter was perfectly healthy. Sometimes it makes no sense.

    And of course, my best friend drove 7 hours to be there, told me my dad would be proud, and Field of Dreams came on the movie channel…and I lost it. The world sometimes gives us too much. But…I was also able to resolve that I would be a great father. I can only do what I can do to help her.

    I can’t control what the world does to her, but I can show and tell her how to react.

    I can’t control what comes on the TV, but I can keep her from watching it.

    I can’t control when she gets sick or when she bumps her head, but I can comfort her and help her get back on her feet.

    I can only do what I can do and not worry about the rest.

  2. Thank you for the reminder to take a second and be grateful. I’m spend the last 36 hours feeling pretty sorry for myself because I’ve got a cold coming on, I shopped with my best friend and sister yesterday and came home empty-handed, and the sun hasn’t been out in 3 days. What I should have been doing was feeling gratitude that the worst of my health problems is a small cold, that I’ve got the means to spend a day shopping with my best friend and my sister, and that despite gloomy skies, spring in Minnesota is only days away! Again, thank you. Life is short, and LIFE IS GOOD.

  3. I will have to admit, after losing my husband just one year ago, some things don’t faze me. My 33 year old daughter is about to get married. She waited for the right man to come along. That right man came less than six months after her father passed away. Throughout this relationship, I keep saying, oh, if Keith could only see how happy she is. I have been asked to walk my daughter down the aisle and give a toasting speech…all the things her father would have done. Keith was very tall and eloquent; my 5’ frame could never fill his place. When I went to pick up my dress for this very special occasion, it was a shock to see my dress (that I had shopped diligently for) was not only the wrong color, but also the wrong size. The shop owner was so dismayed that she started crying. She so wanted things to be just perfect for us, especially considering the circumstances. Interestingly, the wrong dress didn’t bother me. In fact, I started laughing. (Background: every dress, from the bridesmaids, bride, to mother has had issues). I looked at my lovely daughter and said, “Well, maybe I should consider a different color of dress”. After the dress fitting, my lovely daughter and her fiancé took me to dinner and we started discussing the wedding plans. Only three weeks left. Is there anything that we are forgetting? Possibly. But, I have such a peace about everything. My daughter is marrying the Godly man that her father and I have always wanted for her; a man that adores her and wants to be the soul mate for her that she has always dreamed of. So, despite the threat of winter storms ruining our weekend plans, dress plans gone awry, or daily schedules being filled with agendas and ‘to dos’, or the emptiness that I feel so often, I am able to give thanks to God for the Blessings set before us like this beautiful relationship. And I thank God every day for sending this wonderful man to my daughter, one that we have prayed over for years. One last thought…I told my future son-in-law early in his and my daughter’s relationship that I was a part of the package deal. He laughed and said, “good”. He now calls me, ‘mom’.

  4. In January of 1994, three things occurred in my life. My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, my best friend from college’s Dad was diagnosed with ALS and my daughter was born. Ten months later my best friends Dad died. I still have my mother, she has had 19 years of challenges dealing with Parkinson’s and is in a nursing home now, but I can still see her smiling face every week when I visit. My 19 year old daughter can see her too, but two of my best friend’s children will never know their grandfather. I am blessed!

  5. John,
    Thanks for the reflection. My heart goes out in the loss of someone so young, leaving behind those to grieve. I have learned a lot in my years and I do believe in living each day. I have Stage IV Breast Cancer and have aleady passed the date that I was supposedly given as my time. That said. I am so blessed. I feel alive every day. It is a blessing. I think in some way the diagnosis awakened me to the brevity of life and the blessings of each day. I have always been a positive person, but this put me in full life mode. Yes, there are days when you may not smell all the flowers, but I do see things I think I may not have seen before, appreciate the little things and try… I said TRY not to take anything for granted. God has blessed me with this life and a beautiful family and group of friends that make me see each day as what it is… A blessing. Thanks so much for the reminder.

    It’s like the old saying, When a door closes, a window opens…

  6. Thank you for the memories of this man. He touched many lives, even lives many miles removed. Was it the man, or this horrific disease that has so deeply touched us? Most assuredly, this man was a prince among his peers, but the fact that ALS knows no boundaries, taking this fine man in the prime of his life, is beyond comprehension.
    I learned from this family, who I only knew through my daughter and her family, that friends can be almost as close as family, that friends can cherish us almost as much as family and the bond that unites us all goes beyond simple friendship. And yes, life can be way too short.

  7. I am always moved by your stories and experiences. “Life is Short” is always something I hear when remembering those that have passed on before us! However… I must also always remember that “Life is the Longest Thing I will have the opportunity to Experience!” So while for some it is shorter than others, always live it to the fullest. The “Time” may be short… but the “Quality” can be so much bigger!

  8. Last April 1st (2012), Palm Sunday, I had a mild stroke which caused some numbness to my left side along with other health issues that I continue to have today. I am frustrated because I cannot be “the same” as I was a year ago and I am struggling to get well. I ended up in the hospital again in October 2012 for the same reason and it was because I was stressing out and taking too many things personally. Three weeks ago, I “lost it” at work due to stress and trying to do too much. I took two days off and re-focused on what was important — my faith, my health and my family. You are right — life is too short, as I’ve had to learn the hard way. It’s not easy but I’m focused on doing the best job I can at work and then go home to my wife, have a nice dinner and then play my guitar. This QBQ note has hit home. Take it from someone who is currently experiencing health issues — life is too short. Step back and re-focus.

  9. After cheating death in 1998 at teh age 0f 38, I have tried to use the gift of a second life to the best of my ability but sometimes I get overwhelmed by my nagging health issues. This is a good reminder to us all that we should cherish our families and loved one while we have them and never take a day for granted!

  10. Not sure where the sign above my door came from, maybe Max Lucado, but it says:

    “We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.”

    Blessings!

  11. We say “Life is too short”…too often and too loosely. we need to take it more seriously and think about it each day as a reminder to live right now!….today! I’ve often told my kids (and myself) after an argument….really? is this what we want our last thought, conversation or feeling to be? we all need to resolve any conflict right away and let it go asap!

    we always miss those who have left us too soon. I miss my dad terribly…we lost him about 4 years ago now and I’m grateful for the time I had to share with him throughout the years and in the year after his diagnosis, before he passed. I am lucky we were close and that my kids were able to know him and spend almost every weekend with him in his last year. He was 78 which is still too young in my eyes. Glad his best friend, my mom, was by his side too. I’m grateful they spent a lot of time together throughout the years, traveled on their own and with us kids, and shared time enjoying their six grandkids.

    So, yes…life is too short. we all need to keep reminding each other to enjoy today, be grateful for this moment…it’s your blessing!

    1. Celeste, I know – I often wonder what was the last thing I said to my mom as a teen the morning of the beautiful May day in 1975 when she suddenly died. Be careful, people!

  12. Thank you John for posting this today. Last night at about 9:40pm my mother called to tell me my aunt had just passed away. All I could think about is how short life is and to not take any minute for granted. Although today is a tuff day, emotionally, I am trying to be strong and positive for my team. Your thoughts always help. Thank you for being you.

  13. Just over a year ago a dear friend and mentor passed away unexpectedly at age 58. He left behind this spouse, children, and grandchildren. It was shocking and difficult to process the emotions – but I learned so many amazing lessons from him. He made an impact in this life and contributed so much to his family, community, and workplace. He enjoyed life, and made time to do the things he loved including hobbies and travel. He treated people with care and respect, always making people feel good about themselves. And he found joy in every day – he laughed, celebrated traditions, told great stories, and would periodically break into song. I miss him so much and think of him everyday – he’s an example of how I want to live my life. Thanks for your story John, and reminding us of what’s really important.

  14. Thank you, John. I work in Hospice and am reminded on a regular basis how very good and precious life is. It doesn’t stop me from being like everyone else; busy and bothered and often irritable about little (or big) things that really do not matter. When I was younger and probably wiser, someone taught me that if it would not matter in five years then not to waste my time or energy on it. It’s been a long time since I was reminded of that. Thank you for the reminder today. I will leave work a kinder person, go home a more loving spouse and sleep better tonight because each of you took the time to remind me how good life is. Thanks again!

  15. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve thanked God for my getting into the habit of kissing my hubby good-bye & saying, “I love you” each day … with our having no particular order in who initiated our exchange, as we parted in the mornings. What I DO know is that, on the day he died – suddenly, unexpectedly, and with me not by his side – those were some of the final words we shared. It’s been nearly ten years now, and that’s still a HUGE comfort for me! I have been plagued with only the regret that I don’t have him with me … for now.

    What a blessing that has been!!

    My advice to everyone? “Mend fences” as quickly as possible … and TELL your loved ones they are loved … regularly! 😀

  16. John,

    I try to keep these two thoughts in mind daily.

    “Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.” Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen (http://goo.gl/J2Khb)

    “So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.” Helen Keller

  17. John this Musing really hit home. Two years ago while awaiting the start of my younger brothers wedding my Father passed away of a stroke. It is amazing how quickly life can change. For almost two I have reflected daily on the things my Dad taught me. Two of those things included a leadership style today known as Servant Leadership and to always hold myself accountable for my decisions no matter the consequences as you teach so elloquently in QBQ.

    I also learned that day to never take life or family for granted. That I must cherish eveey moment in time with my family as it can be gone on a moment.

    Bthanks for all you do.

    1. Tom, so sorry about your dad. Wow, that had to be a tough tough day. Yes, parents are teachers and it’s so good your father left you with such important life lessons.

  18. Great commentary. Just this past week I returned to my “home” (senior apartment complex) and noted an obituary notice on the bulletin board for a George Fohey who was a resident in the same complex. I’d see George from time to time as we’d pass in the hallway and he was always quick with a “Hi” and then on about his business. I never really got to know George but from the obit it appeard that he had a large and extended family and left behind a loving wife of many years. Perhaps his obit said it best: “George had a great personality and a gift for gab. He always had a funny joke to share with his family and friends. George was a kind-hearted Irishman who will be deeply missed by all who knew him.” For me, I wish I’d taken the time to get to know George a bit more that that brief “HI” he’d offer in passing………

  19. I’ve been an ‘orphan’ for 20 years having lost my Dad in 1971 and Mom in 1992. Every year I buy Mom a birthday and Mother’s Day card. She buys me a birthday card and they sit on her urn of ashes. It makes me smile each time a new card goes up.
    Several years ago the son of a friend of Mom’s let me know that his mom had died. As he and his sister cleaned out the apartment they found the following in the last drawer of the last piece of furniture in the apartment.
    It’s been an honor to share it over these last few years with a lot of people. Each who read it are encouraged to share it with those you know who are grieving – doesn’t matter if you know them well or not.
    Thanks, John and all of you for sharing.

    Deb

    “THE AFTER LOSS CREDO”

    I need to talk about my loss.
    I may often need to tell you what happened –
    or to ask you why it happened.
    Each time I discuss my loss, I am helping myself
    face the reality of the death of my loved one.

    I need to know that you care about me.
    I need to feel your touch, your hugs.
    I need you just to be “with” me.
    (And I need to be with you.)
    I need to know you believe in me and in my
    ability to get through my grief in my own way.
    (And in my own time.)

    Please don’t judge me now –
    or think that I’m behaving strangely.
    Remember I’m grieving.
    I may even be in shock.
    I may feel afraid. I may feel deep rage.
    I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt.
    I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before.

    Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better
    and then suddenly I seem to slip backward.
    Grief makes me behave this way at times.
    And please don’t tell me you “know how I feel,”
    or that it’s time for me to get on with my life.
    (I am probably already saying this to myself.)
    What I need now is time to grieve and to recover.

    Most of all, thank you for being my friend.
    Thank you for your patience.
    Thank you for caring.
    Thank you for helping, for understanding.
    Thank you for praying for me.
    And remember, in the days or years ahead,
    after your loss – when you need me
    as I have needed you – I will understand.
    And then I will come and be with you.

    Author: Barbara Hills LesStrang

    1. Thank you Deb for sharing that. I am going to share it with all my widow village family in a blog. It speaks of what we the widow/widower feel and sometimes have a hard time putting into words. It also comes at a perfect time as many of us are heading to Camp Widow East on the 18th of this month.

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