Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Life is brief and precious

A first-grade class photo reminder that life is brief and precious
About one year ago I gave a copy of my book "Every man who looks in a mirror sees a 16-year-old kid" to my banker.  It was a token of friendship gift to a fellow middle-aged man.  I suggested he only read one reflection a day, put the book down after reading it, and then spend the rest of the day pondering what had just been read. 

He saved the book for a vacation, disregarded my one a day suggestion, and burned through it in a couple hours while catching up on his long-overdue suntan sitting at the beach in Santa Cruz, California.  I had a chance to chat with him upon his return and he gave me some feedback about my book.  One comment was one I had not heard before. 

He commented how my book had too much to say about death and dying.

To which I replied that was because at this chapter of my life, death and dying comes up more often than other life events.  “I’m more likely to attend a funeral than a baby shower”, or something like that, was my reply.

And isn’t that true for most of us at this middle-aged man point in our lives?

Well this year is not even half over yet and more evidence of this truth stares at me.  As I stare back in reflection, I fondly recall the pleasant memories I have of three people who recently passed away. Two were personal friends and the other was a very famous athlete who I did not personally know. 

Father Patrick Lee was a Catholic priest friend my wife and I got to know well from our pro-life activities.  He passed away earlier this year.

He was a gentle giant in our Sacramento pro-life community and could regularly be found at the sidewalk in front of local abortion centers praying in a peaceful and prayerful way for those women entering for an abortion; for them to choose life for their unborn child rather than an abortion.  

Only God knows how many more precious children are living today because of Father Lee’s peaceful prayerful ministry evangelizing and witnessing the sanctity of life.

I'm forever grateful to Father Lee for visiting my father during his last remaining days of life and delivering to him the sacraments of anointing of the sick, confession and holy communion.  He was also the priest for my father's requiem mass and funeral. 

Father Patrick Lee taught me much about how life is brief and precious.

Tommy Kono, America's greatest Olympic weightlifter, also recently passed away.  He became a good friend of mine coincidentally after my efforts about 9 years ago to reunite my Dad and him.  They were weightlifting buddies in the early 1950’s and trained at the Sacramento YMCA. 

Mr. Kono stayed as a guest in my home the first year we met.  Each year thereafter, we would also spend quality time together during his annual visits to Sacramento to visit his brother and attend an Olympic weightlifting competition named in his honor and held at the high school he attended while growing up in Sacramento.

One thing I remember about Mr. Kono was his humility and sage wise elder-perspective of having been there and done it.  He so graciously shared all that he had to offer and was never in a rush when talking to a young lifter or when asked to have a photo taken of him and the person asking for this favor. 

I witnessed his graceful aging and it actually crossed my mind when I saw him last August 2015 that it might be the last time.  I was right because he passed away about 8 months later.

Tommy Kono taught me much about how life is brief and precious.

All middle-aged men of my decade vintage will forever have many memories, while growing up, of Muhammad Ali who also recently passed away.    

I remember the first time I learned of him when he was the reigning heavyweight boxing champion and more commonly known as Cassius Clay.  I was at the Sacramento Judo Club about to begin an evening workout when someone shared that Ali had just knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round with a "mysterious karate" punch. 

This would be the beginning of my following his boxing career.  Ali defended his heavyweight boxing championship several times in matches that could often be viewed "for free" on television.  His post-fight interview encounters with Wide World of Sports' sportscaster Howard Cosell were fun to watch.

I remember Ali’s first fight with Joe Frazier when I was a high school student and then a few years later, his amazing victory over George Foreman during which he patented his famous “rope a dope” technique, using it to exhaust and then knock out the bigger, stronger and younger Foreman.

It was hard to view this great athlete's physical decline in his later years due to Parkinson's disease but he did so with dignity and witness to the beauty of life despite its challenges and imperfections.  

Muhammad Ali taught me much about how life is brief and precious.

I recently read an article on the business magazine Forbes’ website that inspired me to write today's blogflection.  This article was an interview of a physician who shared her perspective of death and dying.

Of the many wisdom points I got from reading it is how this physician, who has witnessed lots of deaths, shared “I’ve seen death done well. And I’ve seen it done poorly.”

She also shared about one lesson learned from her experiences which, coincidentally, is the same lesson I learned from Father Patrick Lee, Tommy Kono and Muhammad Ali.

What is this lesson she learned?  

How life is brief and precious.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Cherish the time with your grandchildren. That's one of the admirable things I thought concerning JP. His grandfather and uncles appear to have taken the time to teach him their history, and left him with great memories of their life experiences.

Side Note: 1st grade You had some funky shirts...

pierini said...

Well thank you middle-aged man Anonymous and thanks for your visit. Agreed 100%. Will have a new Pierini Fitness blogflection this Friday where my grandson gets an honorable mention. Stop by then for another visit.

And a side note to your side note - that shirt was circa pre-Tommy Bahama.