By Scott Westerman
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intellingent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.” – Emerson
My cousin, Marcia, turns 60 this week. This weekend her kids threw the mother of all surprise parties. Extended family and close friends dating back to elementary school were all there. A slide show of classic pictures from Marcia’s life flickered on a huge TV screen while her musical faves played on the stereo. Memories were shared, toasts were made, her favorite dishes were consumed, tears were shed. It was one of the happiest days of her life.
As we were leaving she told me, “I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven, and all the people who mean the most to me were there to welcome me home”.
My dad, the “Real Scott Westerman” will be 86 this year. With that sort of mileage, he now attends a lot of funerals. He much prefers events where the person being honored can actually attend. “Flowers for the living,” he calls it.
Too often, the press of seemingly important daily living may cause us to miss the magical moments that make a life.
I vividly remember the first days of school for the years our children were home with us. Colleen and I were there to see them off. We were also there when they walked in the door to tell us all about it. I remember the lump in my throat when I watched Brandon play the tuba in elementary school and when he came back from knee surgery to help his team win the final game of his senior year and enter the state basketball tournament. I can recall every play Shelby ever acted, our daddy-daughter dates (we still have them), and the way it felt to see both of them walk across the stage to earn their diplomas.
My left hand is sure to be prematurely arthritic from signing an average of 1600 birthday and holiday cards each year during the 27 years I was a cable executive. I wasn’t expected to do this, but wanted to celebrate these passages with each of the people on my team as a small way to show my gratitude for their individual contributions to our combined success.
And even today, my policy is family first. I encourage (some would say insist that) the team to prioritize birthdays, school field trips and life events.. and be fully present to experience them.
Best of all, it’s fun to celebrate. Colleen and I exchange morning, noon and night cards on our birthdays, our anniversary and on valentines day. I still send her flowers. And Wednesdays have been scheduled on my work calendar as “Date Night” for 32 years.
All of these are the milestones that make up a lifetime. They are moments where it’s important to stop and honor the miracle of a genuine friendship, to tell someone straight out how much you care about them and why. And to help make a memory that everyone involved will cherish.
What milestones are coming up in the lives of those you care about? What are the important impending milestones in your own life this year?
Now that you’ve read this, how will you celebrate them?