King Solomon says, "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart" (Ecclesiastes 7:2). I am not a fan of participating in funerals or "houses of mourning." Regardless of my preference, I seem to find myself in these places more often than the average person. Solomon is absolutely correct in his analysis as the "house of mourning" does force us to examine our own lives in light of our approaching death.
Last Monday, June 13, I attended the funeral of a friend from the SEAL teams, LtCDR Kaminski, or Andy, or "Coach", or "Gus", or...I think he had a couple other alias, but they allude my memory now. We went through SEAL training and then served at SEAL Team 3 together for a number of years. He was strong, healthy, kind, and full of life. He died before he saw 40 years on this earth because of brain cancer. Every funeral seems to impact me in a different sort of way and this is certainly true of Coach's.
Three lessons from Coach's life are lingering in my heart after attending his funeral.
The first is summarized in this saying I heard many years ago: "You can't control the length of your life, but you can control the width of it." No one knows how long they have on this planet. The reality is our lives are short--whether you live 20 years or 200 years--we are but a vapor. I was reminded again that life is short, time is a limited commodity, and to take to heart the exhortation of Paul gives in Ephesians 5:15-17.
The second lesson is character counts. I was struck by the consistency of testimony of the people who shared at the memorial. They were people who knew him in a variety of settings and throughout many different years, yet what they said about Coach was consistent. He was a man with a long history of integrity and solid character. This was powerful. I was reminded of how important character and integrity are in a person's life. I want to finish this life strong.
The final lesson was a reminder of the value of a personal touch. I don't know how he did it, but he sent hand written cards to everyone. Seriously, all sorts of occasions, all sorts of people, and all the time. How he did this as a man boggles my mind, but he did nonetheless. Why did he do this? I believe he did this because he saw the value and importance of relationships. This is something we are losing in our culture between email, text messaging, Facebook, and all the varying other forms of social networking. We seem to be more connected than ever before, yet totally isolated in the midst of this. I feel like I am really bad in this area and I really would like to improve on my personal touch skills. Maybe a hand-written letter is coming your way soon? Don't hold your breath...
Coach, you were a great leader and man. I am blessed to have known you and to have served under you. Thank you for helping me develop as a man and a leader.