Your Life is Now
How the sudden passing of a friend taught me to appreciate others.
The title of this post is the title of one of my favorite songs, Your Life is Now, by John Mellencamp. It has been on my mind since the very unexpected passing last week of an old high school friend, the Reverend Greg Hamby. As is often the case with news of long ago friends, I learned from Facebook of Greg’s death. He broke his neck while body surfing with his son on vacation at Myrtle Beach and died in ICU the next day.
The past couple of weeks have been the equivalent of an online funeral for Greg. Hundreds of people have posted their memories of him, their stories of how he affected their lives and their shock and grief at losing him so suddenly.
Greg was a year ahead of me in school and, while I always liked him, I didn’t know Greg that well. As kids, I loved his sense of humor, his slightly off center view of the world and his passion for rock and roll. As adults, I was a Facebook friend and was so impressed with the way his life unfolded, the wisdom and humor that he shared and that, when it came to music, he never stopped rockin’. How many Baptist pastors do you know who use a pirate flag for their profile picture and dedicate their Facebook banner to a shot of Alice Cooper in full “Welcome to My Nightmare” regalia? That was Greg.
Here’s the other thing about Greg. He clearly understood that his life, this life, your life is now. He followed his heart into the pastorate. He loved the Boston Red Sox and spent a week at their fantasy camp. Three weeks before he died he was at Fenway Park with his best friend Carl to check off a life time goal of seeing Sir Paul McCartney in concert. He passed away while he was having fun with one of his kids.
It’s easier to be present and fully attentive with people when they’re older. You know that they’re only going to be here so much longer. It was like that for me in the years before my grandfather died five years ago. As I wrote here then, he was one of the heroes of my life. In the last couple of years of his life, I had this very clear sense that any visit or conversation with him might be the last. It wasn’t morbid; it was joyful. Every time I saw him or talked with him, we laughed, told stories, hugged if we could and told each other we loved them. When he finally passed away, I had zero regrets. We had said everything there was to say.
And that’s the final lesson I take from Greg Hamby. I didn’t take the chance to let Greg know how much I admired what he’d done, how he had lived his life and how funny and wise I thought his Facebook posts were. My guess is he knows, but it would have been nice to tell him nonetheless.
Your life is now. On this Mindful Monday and everyday, let someone know what you appreciate about them and how it’s affected you. You’ll feel better and they’ll feel better. There’s no downside, it’s all upside.
Rock on Greg.