FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
Sometimes when you write, the words just flow from your fingertips. The topic quickly and passionately comes to mind and once in front of a keyboard, you enter a Zen state and somehow the piece writes itself.
It’s easier to write when passion is involved. My passion: keeping LEOs safe. When threats present themselves to my brothers and sisters in blue, or when I perceive a risk to them, my passion ignites and I try to, with my words, help keep officers safe. Sometimes my message comes out flawed, but my attempt is sincere.
After recently attending a funeral of a family friend, Lenny, who died too early at the age of 79, I’m reminded of the mission all of us have in this profession: to make it home safely at the end of our shift.
But there’s so much more to life than that.
Building a Legacy
When a eulogy is performed by someone who didn’t really know the decedent, they can’t say anything meaningful about the person. For example, during the service they might read a similar obituary: “Bobby Smith was born in XXXX, died in XXXX, liked to fish, hunt and ride his Harley. He is survived by…” With this kind of obituary, here’s what’s lacking: All the content between birth and death that the person filled with relationships and contributions to the world.
Decedents who focused their lives inwardly—about themselves—rather than about giving to others, lived empty lives in which they attempted to fill with things that made them feel better in the moment. But ultimately, this leads to an early death with little positive said about their lives. They didn’t leave a legacy.
I know Christmas has long since passed, but this quote from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is relevant: “‘It is required of every man,’ the ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.’”
Lenny’s service remembered a man who gave to others his whole life: his wife of 54 years, his sons, his daughters, his other family members and even to us—his friends, who only recently got to know him over the last few years. His outward focus on others built a life full of love and laughter that filled those who were fortunate enough to be related to him or know him with pleasant memories.
At the memorial service, homage was paid by his daughter, son and grandson who were a testament to a life that was truly “lived” by an active participant—not by someone who disassociates or removes themselves from life. It was as if everyone acknowledged that he had a passion to be involved with his family—always living life in the moment. Whoever was interacting with him, always received his attention, love and time.
I’m sure there were hard times. But the overall emphasis and tenor of his life was an outward focus on giving—rather than inward focus on taking.
The Legacy Lives On
While driving home and talking to my son in the car, we discussed Lenny’s fine legacy. It lives on with those he touched and interacted with. His example of what a man, husband, father and caring human being is and should be made an everlasting impact on me and my family. These are lessons to be assimilated into my life.
The character Scrooge from A Christmas Carol was presented with these lessons as well: “‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge. ‘But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!’”
Although many of you didn’t meet and interact with Lenny, I’m sure you have positive examples of a meaningful and purpose-lead life that you can look to for guidance and attempt to emulate. We should all have positive role models.
There’s more to life than this police thing. Our work can make us cold, unfeeling, cynical and self-centered. But on the other hand, police work can help mold, shape and strengthen us for the better if we allow it to. In the end, the relationships we forge through our lives and careers will last longer and have much deeper meaning if we focus on giving. How we live our lives will live on.
In the advent of my passing, I pray that what’s remembered is what I have given—not what I had or attempted to hoard. Living in the now, loving those in your lives as much as you can and leaving a legacy that will live on through those you’ve touched and interacted with. Is Lenny’s message to me—and I pass it along to you. You’ll reap the benefits now, throughout your life and pass them on to others—long after you’re gone.