John M Moore
January 31, 2020
I can’t breathe. I feel like my heart is stopping. I am in total shock. How do I process this information? No this isn’t a real diagnosis for myself, or at least I hope not. I recently read an account of a man who unexpectedly learned this devasting news. He really hadn’t even been sick- just feeling a little “off” so decided to make an appointment with his doctor and learned this terrible news. If I received this horrible news, what would be my priorities and choices?
We trade chunks of time for things our entire life. I thought I would be in grade school forever, but I wasn’t. I thought college would never end, but it did. I later thought my career would last a lot longer than it did, and I also never thought I would retire. Wrong again. I also didn’t think I would ever be old, but guess what? I consider myself at the beginning of my “golden years,” with a long list of things to accomplish. Now I have learned I have only 30 days and need to make some hard choices. My family is my first priority. Do they know how much I love them? Can I comfort and assure them that life will go on and remind them to focus on their future? What will my family look like without me?
My mind quickly goes to those grandchildren. Those tiny humans I didn’t know existed 10 years ago, have taken over my interest and heart. Am I leaving them a good example, reputation and message of how important they are and how much they are loved? Their memories will hopefully recall that I tried to be at every program, recital, ball game and performance in which they participated. Notes, drawings, color sheets and written evidence of projects they have done are filed away that one day they will discover. These children are my hope for the future. They are in a unique place in their lives with exposure to more opportunity, education, ideas and untapped potential than anyone in our family before them. I am excited for their futures.
My sons will be my proxy going forward. We have traveled this life with some incredible experiences together. Some experiences were fun and some were hard. But together we have learned much. We have shared lots of time and conversations over the years. They “know stuff” about me. They often read me and know my reactions long before I say a word. My “tells” often give me away- that look, eye roll or determined pursing of lips provides a non-verbal cue of my thoughts. My opinions and convictions on the treatment of people, advocacy for the disadvantaged, decisions for the greater good and putting others before oneself will be reflected through them. And of course, they know my inner thoughts on politics and my frustration with politicians who only seem interested in their own self interests. I am trusting these private thoughts to my sons to remember as they make their own decisions for themselves, their lives and to guide their own children and grandchildren.
My wife of 42 years has daily been my support and partner. We have worked together, raised children together, buried our parents together, started a business together and experienced the birth of grandchildren. We have supported, encouraged and helped each other for all of these many years. We were fortunate to work in the teaching profession together and have known and worked with many of the same students, families and children. We shared experiences, frustrations, victories and bloopers that few people even know about. While we did not date or know each other very long before we were married, we have learned to lean on and trust each other. Our lives have been busy, active, engaged and always full of many and multiple activities with home, family, children, school, church and civic activity. In the early days I could see the panic in her eyes when I excitedly came home exclaiming, “Guess what I did?” Those days have long passed and now when I come home with exciting news, she takes it in stride knowing we will sink or swim together. Will she remember how much we shared, loved and experienced together? Have I sometimes wasted opportunities to support and love over some unimportant event, detail or word? Probably. Truthfully, it’s a definite yes!
What about my friends, co-workers, social contacts and acquaintances? Have I been supportive and encouraging to them by building up rather than criticizing or complaining? My goal is to always be open, encouraging and cooperative to all that I meet. I hope that has been clear and obvious to my peers and colleagues. Sometimes as a leader, hard choices and decisions have to be made. Not everyone will be happy, but everyone should be heard, considered and treated respectfully. That has been my goal.
As I pondered on these thoughts, I noticed my attention was directed to the areas I have always valued most- faith, family, community. These are the important things to me. Mistakes I have made, time I have wasted on frustrations, people who hurt my feelings, grudges I might have felt, anger over differences of opinion and disappointment now seem trivial, unimportant and a waste of energy. Exposure and “Likes” on my social media accounts are a very low priority. My focus has changed- see the good, avoid the bad, give people the benefit of the doubt, always be welcoming, listening and respectful. This is where I want to concentrate my time whether it be 30 days or 30 years. I really have no idea what I would do first if I received the news that I have 30 days to live. I don’t think any of us do. But I do have a little clearer picture of what I want to trade my time for in the future. I want to be a friend, listener, confidant and encourager to those I meet. I want to give people a handshake or a hug when appropriate. I want to look people in the eye and be intentional with my actions. But most of all I want to listen- really listen and show interest in others. I think it can make all the difference.