The Space In Between

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a man who I did not know well--an architect who died suddenly from a brain aneurysm, .  I had met him at parties of a mutual friend.  His long-time companion is a beautiful and vivacious woman to whom I and another long-time friend of mine always gravitate at the parties we mutually attend.  Raucous laughter always ensued--always restorative to the spirit. I went to the funeral to offer some comfort and pay my respects.

The funeral was standing room only.  It was a non-traditional service comprised of long-time friends speaking about this man that they felt privileged to know.  It was evident that this man made no distinction between friends and colleagues--everyone he knew was a friend. Sitting in that room bursting with people and listening to the succession of people speaking about this departed man brought two thoughts to mind. 

Thought 1:  Would half that many come to my funeral?
Thought 2:  Would half so many nice things be said?

When I interview people for jobs, I always ask what I call the funeral question.  It sounds morose, but you will be surprised what information it elicits that is useful in judging a candidate.  The question is simply:  You are at the end of your life and in the ground but you have the opportunity to speak at your own funeral.  What would you like to say about what your life and what you had accomplished?

One of the speakers stated that there are two things in life that happen to you that you cannot control and cannot time:  birth and death.  True enough, and worth being reminded of.  What we choose to do between those lines of demarcation is what makes a statement about who we are.

The space in between.  Always a good time to reflect on what we are doing with that precious space.  How are we comporting ourselves; how are we helping others; what mark are we leaving on the world in our spheres of influence.  While few of us will be Gandhi, Mother Theresa, George Washington, or any other figure that markedly changes the world, it is important to remember that a sphere of influence is a world.

After the service, friends were invited to a local restaurant at which this man was so much a regular that they had booth for him.  The Monday before his death, he was eating with one of his friends (who spoke and told this story),  who asked, "Who are all of these peoples in these pictures on the wall?".  "I was tired of being the only living guy among all of these pictures of dead people on the wall, so I asked them to put up new pictures."

So I left the service and the gathering of friends at this restaurant that was his eating home feeling very much attuned to my own "space in between"--this dear man managed that space so well as was evident from the tenor of his memorial service.  He did it by managing not the entire space, but by always being in each moment of that space.  What he was doing at the moment was the most important thing.  Who he was with at the moment was the most important person.  The animal that he was caring for at the moment was the most important animal.  This connecting of moments that are managed well creates the space in between.  Those moments in those spheres connect to very large spaces in between that house many spheres of influence that tangentially connect to quite a large world.

I was grateful to have that important reminder yesterday.


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