Tag Archives: loss

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Steve Jobs: “Life is brief, and then you die. You know?”

I think the most admirable lesson Steve Jobs taught us about the way he lived his life was that he LIVED it.

To the full. Overflowing. Nonstop. Always creating. Always dreaming. Always expanding. Completely. He used every drop of it and we grasped all he gave.

Billions around the world honor him today as he leaves this life. But, for me, the true measure of our admiration toward this amazing man is that we did honor him all along his life, at every creation. And there were many.

There is no doubt he is the Edison of our generation. His accomplishments are so vast, I doubt most people know them all.

The Apple II, IMac, Pixar Studio work which brought so much fun to small and big children everywhere (remember ToyStory), ITunes, IPod, IPhone, IPad. All the genius of one man.

I loved the fact that he worked from his gut. He went to the quiet place where all creation comes from and listened to the small voice that he knew was right.

No focus groups, no research, just gut.

In his 2005 Commencement Address at Sanford University, he spoke of his life, his losses, his challenges, his struggles and his views about life and death, especially since, at that time, he had only one year earlier learned he had pancreatic cancer. (Read the transcript here, or watch below.)

His views on life and death are so profound, I wanted to share them with you. (Also read his infamous quotes here.)

Some of his memorable reflections are these:

“When I was 17 I read a quote that went something like “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

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“[Steve’s pancreatic cancer] was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept.

No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there, and yet, death is the destination we all share.

No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. right now, the new is you.

But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs not only created magnificent products that changed the way we live our daily lives but he also created an awareness in us that life is so short and should be treasured. Instead of focusing on the trivial parts of life, he inspired us to reach for the best in ourselves each and every day. Because one day, as he reminded us, it will truly be our last.

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Memorial Day 2011

In anticipation of Memorial Day this year, I did a little research to find out exactly how many families have paid the ultimate sacrifice of sending their loved ones off to war, never to return to them. I was amazed at the huge numbers of deaths, especially during World War I and II but had no idea the numbers were so high for the Civil War, especially since our population was nearly 1/3 of what it is today. Take a look at each war and the total American Fatalities for each.

American Revolutionary War 22,674
War of 1812 11,700
Mexican-American War 13,271
American Civil War (1860-1965) 618,000
Spanish-American War 5,385
Philippine-American War 4,196
World War I (1917-1918) 117,465
World War II (1941-1945) 418,500
Korean War (1950-1953) 36,516
Vietnam War 58,159
Gulf War (1991) 382
War on Terror (2001-present)
Afghanistan (2001-present) 1,413
Iraq (2003-present) 4,430

Total Military Deaths 1,312,091

Although many are unhappy with our presence in the middle east at this time, the number of casualties has been remarkable low considering we have been there for over a decade.

But to a spouse or child grieving that soldier’s death, they are the only one who matters in all these statistics. And it is their sacrifice I think about today. Their pain, their grief, their loss, their sorrow.

Each military family who has either lost a loved one or is grieving the loss of limbs, sustained head injuries, or life as they once knew it, are forever changed.

So today we remember them for their courage, their commitment, their sacrifice and thank them for all of it.

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Uniting Children of Vietnam War Heroes

Today on Memorial Day 2010, I was so delighted to learn about a wonderful organization which was started 20 years ago to unite the children of the 58,260 men who were killed in the Vietnam War.

“Sons and Daughters in Touch” will celebrate their Dads’ lives this Father’s Day, June 20th, as they do each year on this special day, by gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at 10:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C.

Its leader, Tony Cordero, lost his dad when he was quite young and I commend him for providing such a heartwarming and healing opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children, who are now adults, who lost their fathers during the Vietnam War.

No one helps us heal better than another person who has walked in our exact shoes. They lived through seeing their Dad come home for short periods of time and be redeployed. They and their family members lived with the fear of not knowing whether he would return. Members of SDIT know exactly what it’s like to walk in those shoes. And nothing could bring more comfort than sharing with a fellow survivor.

If you know of a family who survived the loss of a father, son, brother, uncle, cousin or other relative in Vietnam, please forward this information to them.

I applaud Mr. Cordero and the countless volunteers who help children, whatever their age, acknowledge their grief and celebrate the lives of their beloved Dads.

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When a Moment Changes Your Life Forever

When I reflect on the devastating plane crash near Buffalo, New York that killed 50 people this past Thursday evening, I tend to notice how fragile life can be. We go about our business each day anticipating that we’ll wake up with all our family and friends in tact, and go to bed with the same understanding.

We enjoy their company, organize life plans with them, graduate schools and colleges, get married, have babies, raise good children, see them get married and have babies and raise good children all the while believing it will continue this way in perpetuity.

But for some people, like the families who suddenly and so unexpectedly lost their precious loved one in such a horrific tragedy, their ‘normal’ lives were shattered in one single moment. Just one. A moment that will forever change how they see life, how they adapt to life, how they cope with change and how they will rebuild all they’ve ever known.

Nothing is more disconcerting that change. We fight it in our everyday life, but we aren’t far from it. We fight it on our jobs, we fight it in relationships with family and friends, we fight it within ourselves when we realize something better could become available to us if we’d only allow ourselves to change.

But with changes come fear. Fear that we won’t get it right. Fear that it has to come out perfect. Fear that when all is said and done, it won’t be the same as before. And you know what…you’re right. It won’t be the same.

And when tragedy strikes, somehow all that nonsense that came before seems so completely trivial. That was baby stuff compared to this. This is serious. This is sudden. This is shocking. This is real.

So when I meet folks who are so concerned about money and stuff and games they play with other people’s emotions, at this point in my life it’s almost laughable. When you have lived through such tragedy as I have in the past and the families of this flight will now endure, you instantaneously get an entirely new perspective on life.

Right now for them, absolutely nothing else matters. The only thing they are now consumed with is dealing with the shock and disbelief that this is happening to them. That the person who they loved so much is no longer here. That they won’t get to call them to share good news anymore. That they won’t get to share in all their future accomplishments. That they won’t be able to hug and physically love them any longer.

So let us be especially mindful that life is incredibly short. In a blink our lives could change forever. Let us be kind toward others. Let us be loving. For one day, it will be our turn to endure a painful loss.

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Shopping and Grieving During the Holidays

One of the most stressful parts of the Christmas, Hanukkah and the holiday season is shopping for gifts but when you’ve experienced a loved one’s death, it seems almost unbearable.

Family and friends are still expecting their gifts and it is difficult, especially for little ones, to comprehend that somehow you decided to sit out this season. So let’s look at a few shortcuts to keep this task managable.

Online sites are by far the most efficient use of your time, your energy and your sanity. You sit, do some surfing, find what you want and presto, it shows up at your door. What a blessing the internet is for grieving-stricken folks. More sites are offering online deals than before and if you order from one site, chances are your shipping will be limited or perhaps zero.

Catalogues…same premise. Flip, choose, order by phone or on the web.

If you need to go to the mall, be prepared for the holiday music, the crowds, the lines, the hectic pace and of course, the people. Let’s take one at a time…

The holiday music can flip you back to a time when the person you loved who has died was shopping with you and perhaps you were singing that song together. Maybe you sang it in the car with the children. Either way that memory can pop up and you well up with tears or feel tightening in the chest.

Crowds…you’ll have less tolerance for nonsense now. Expect it. Crowds don’t seem to fit in the picture. You’re just trying to keep your emotional balance and don’t need the pushing and shoving and diving into piles of clothing for the best bargain…get the picture.

The lines…you don’t have as much patience as you normally would so long lines trying to get to a cash register is really the job of a good friend who goes to the mall with you.

The hectic pace…same issue with the crowds. This year your tolerance is low and rushing around trying to get everything done when you’re energy level will be low to begin with, can be a difficult task.

People…this might sound like a funny one, but think about this. You’ve lost your husband, sometime since last Christmas, and here you are walking in the mall, you sit to have coffee. As you begin the people watch, since you’re staring into space, you glance over to see a couple about your age who is embracing. Ouch.

Or you lost a child this year, you’re walking through one of the major department stores and unaware you walk right past the little girls’ section. It occurs to you that you won’t need to buy anything in that department this year. Double ouch.

Now that you know some of the ‘hazards’ you can be prepared. It’s more about being aware of what can occur, so you won’t put yourself into a position where you’ll be surprised. Just a little thoughtful planning will help make shopping this season more bearable.

Take the time to listen to your heart and obey what it’s telling you. If you can’t do any of this, have a friend or family member help. If you need to limit gift giving, that ok too. Just communicate it all beforehand to your loved ones. You’re gonna make it through!! Promise.