Five Lessons My Friend’s Passing Taught Me

As I mentioned in yesterday’s morning roundup, a close friend of mine passed away over the weekend. I rushed back to my hometown area and spent three days seeing family and friends and attending a visitation, a gathering that amounted to a wake, and an emotional funeral. It’s all over now, but I still feel drained.

On my way back to my own home, I spent some time reflecting on the whole event and realized that there were several valuable things I had learned.

Valuable Things I Learned From My Friend’s Passing

1. Frugality, living cheap, and poverty are in the eye of the beholder.

My friend was financially poor, but he didn’t feel ashamed of it. In fact, it was almost a badge of pride for him. He owned everything he needed – a home, an old pickup truck to drive around in, and a small shop for mechanical work. These kept him occupied and very happy in his later years. He made no pretense of having money – you would go visit him and he’d be sitting there in one of the two t-shirts he constantly wore and a pair of blue jeans. In fact, that was how he was buried – in his favorite t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans – because no one could imagine him wearing anything else.

Was he cheap? Was he frugal? Was he poor? He had more money than we had ever expected, as his children found out during his final days. He just realized that if he had the things that brought him a lot of joy – his family, his friends, his home, his truck, and his mechanical shed – he didn’t really need anything else.

2. The lessons people teach you sometimes sneak up on you.

For most of my life, I just thought of him as a close family friend, but over the last few days, I realized that he actually taught me a lot of things about life. He was always strongly encouraging me to speak well, because the words you speak build the impression others had of you. My impression of him? He shot straight and didn’t mince words – when he said something, it might be on the gruff side but it was worth listening to.

He also taught me that time spent lounging around entertaining yourself in front of a television was time wasted. Until the end of his life, when he was too weak to do much else, he watched at most an hour of television a week. Instead, he was outside doing something – gardening, working in his shop, or something along those lines.

3. You don’t realize how much you miss a person until they’re gone.

I visited him a few times when he was sick, but he always seemed like such a strong guy that when I heard he was sick, it really didn’t shake me too much. I just couldn’t visualize him in my head getting sick. I intended to visit him over the summer, but between moving and the birth of my daughter, I never was able to make the long trip back there, so I had to say goodbye to him at his visitation. I’ll miss him, and I regret not getting a chance to really say goodbye.

This weekend, I’m going to talk to a few older people who are very important to me and tell them how important they are, so that if something happens to them, I know I talked to them and told them.

4. Don’t regret the mistakes and the choices you make.

When I was in early high school, I had a tremendous crush on a young woman in my local area. After I moved away, I didn’t see her again for about ten years – until a few days ago. I sat with her for a while at the visitation and talked to her – and I realized pretty quickly that I made the right decision in giving up on that dream.

There were times when I was at college where I thought about what might have happened if I had really tried to win her over. You know what? It doesn’t matter – and neither do the other choices left on the table from earlier in life. The value of what I have now – an amazing wife and two wonderful children – far exceed even the best things that I could ever imagine from the things I left behind.

5. Success is what you make of it.

Almost five hundred people turned up at this man’s visitation, and nearly three hundred were at his graveside funeral. We might be chasing a dollar in our lives, but what is a dollar worth compared to having that much impact on so many lives?

He might not have had a huge savings account balance, but he had a very nice accounting sheet when it came to love and respect from others. Which would I rather have in my final days?

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