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A Lesson From Mike

I watched him as he leaned over the manuscript of the memoir he'd not only written but had lived out.  He removed his glasses and wiped his one good eye...then the other, which had been taken by the war in Vietnam and had been replaced by a glass one.

I tried to discreetly wipe my own tears.  I didn't want him to notice that I was trying to swallow all the emotions I felt as I listened to this war hero...my friend, Mike...read his own words,

I often think back on my time at Fort Sam and most days I am thankful for a good memory.  I remember how individuals looked, what they said and how they reacted to events.  But each year now it is growing fainter and fainter until sometimes I feel I am remembering only the memory of a memory.  Eventually all the participants recounted here will be gone.  No one will be around to recall what happened.  The memories will fade until nothing will be left, except these words.

...every hair on my arm was standing on end.  That happens to me when I know I'm in the presence of something great, or in a moment that touches my very soul.

I was home yesterday and met with Mike.

I listened to him recount profound events in his life that I've only read about.

I laughed.   
...and I cried.

I asked him about life...I told him why I have this compelling urge to document people's stories.

He leaned back in his office chair and said, "Talk to me, Tam.  Tell me what you're thinking..."

"Mike.  Here's the thing.  With the exception of my Dad [and a couple women who have really stepped up in my life], I am missing the two generations above me.  I have no grandparents left.  I have one parent.  There is something in my heart that craves to have something tangible...a family history, legacy to hold onto.  However, in my family, death has often come quickly and unexpectedly...so I can't go back and gather up all the stories and advice I wish I had.  I was young and foolish.  I didn't know better.  I didn't take the time to sit down and ask all the questions I didn't know I'd want answered someday.  So because I can't do that for myself...I want to do it for others."

Suddenly, I felt at a disadvantage in life.  I don't know why it felt like it or even why it mattered...but it did.  I was tempted to feel sorry for myself in that moment, and almost as if he could read it on my face, Mike leaned forward on his desk and said,

"Tam, your family history is much shorter than others.  I don't know why God allowed that.  I can only imagine that it was for a good that we don't know.  But Tam, you have to believe that your best work is yet to be done.  It is.  Believe it.  Your mom didn't get to see your best work, but we trust she knows somehow.  You may not even know or see the fulfillment of your work...but as long as it touches someone and makes their life better, that's all that matters. You are your father's daughter in the stamina you show...how you push through life...your resilience. 
And just know, your best work is yet to be done.  I believe that...I really do."

It was as though his words pierced straight through my selfish heart and straight into my soul.

I was reminded that the best work in life is that which isn't about me, but something that reaches a hand out in love to another human being, and touches them. 

I was honored to have sat with Mike and to be reminded by this friend, what's important in life and to push towards and take courage in the knowledge that as long as I am loving people, my best work is yet to be done.

Thanks, Mike.




7 comments:

Rebekah said...

I am so excited for all that is to come! Love ya

smw said...

very neat post. love you lots!

Tim and Em said...

Great post Tam! Love you!

Cindy said...

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Currently, I am trying to put together a creative album of my past, my heritage. It is a grueling process, requiring emotion and talent. But your post validated WHY I am doing--I just want to explore my past, my roots. I sent the link to Brad; this will really be a blessing to him today.

alisonsutter said...

Oh Tam, your words make me want to go grab a cup of tea, a blanket and curl up on the couch and read them 100 times. Thanks for the beautiful post!

Anonymous said...

The Tami who writes things that penetrate my core and blow me out of the water is back, and I'm so glad.
sk

christine said...

Beautiful!

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