My daughter Katrina’s college graduation was yesterday. This kind of event always makes me a little weepy, whether it’s my own child or a perfect stranger: A beautiful, uplifting milestone, the culmination of years of hard work and vibrating with a powerful sense of the future. I’ve been to many of these, and I’m always touched by what a special, transformative moment it is for both the graduate and the hopeful, supportive families.
When I was younger, I didn’t take seriously either my high school or college graduation. Honestly, I was more inclined to mock the pomp and circumstance and all the obvious artifice (the robes! the funny hats!). Neither event seemed to match all the effort required to get there. That’s part of why I didn’t even think to attend the ceremony after graduate school.
But in hindsight, now that I’m a parent and have attended these ceremonies as a professor, I can say clearly I was wrong. There are not enough moments in life as clear a milestone, a chance to pause and look backward and forward, an opportunity to relish achievement and acknowledge the people who helped make it happen, an orchestrated time to celebrate and collectively wonder what the future will hold.
So with this in mind comes today’s discussion topic: What life event has moved you most? Maybe it’s a graduation, perhaps a wedding or a birth, possibly even a divorce or a funeral. That answer might be an opportunity to reflect not just on the particular event itself, but also (with hindsight) how it’s effected the trajectory of your life or the lives of those who are close to you.
As always, I look forward to reading your observations and the chance for this thoughtful community to share with each other.
*Photo by Satoshi-K via Getty Images.
I was a single parent raising my daughter on my own after her dad - my ex husband - went MIA when she was only 18 months old. The evening she gave birth to my grandson moved me to tears. I was working the night shift at a Memphis hospital, and my manager gave me the night off. “You go on and love on that baby.” I’ll never forget her kindness, I’ll never forget holding my grandson for the first time.
Almost impossible to narrow it down to only 1 event
For those of us lucky to live long enough ( I'm almost 72), we have seen marriages, births, deaths & global life events like the JFK Assassination & 911 & Jan 6th too
But a pivotal even occurred in 1984 here in DC when my Holocaust surviving parents came to the First US Annual Gathering of Survivors.
We met Elie Wiesel & attended the groundbreaking of the US Holocaust Museum
My then 3yo son's cheeks were pinched red by all the Survivor's so delighted to meet the next generation
When I ran for Lt. Gov. of Virginia as the most liberal member of the Legislature. Got beat by Chuck Robb who was a volunteer to my legislative office and sold out to the Byrd Machine. The poverty I encountered in rural Black homes which hung up pictures of JFK torn out from a newspaper; the racism which was so prevalent years after integration; women working for substandard wages at night jobs with very young children at their sides; the coal miners in a little mine with less than 10 guys on a shift (me among them) covered by coal no-one on my team would recognize me when I emerged; the heartfelt desire for fair wages throughout a poor working class state ruled by rich political tyranny! Many of those conditions are still there as decent folks struggle desperately with 10 relatives and children living together. Disparity of income, education and health care hasn’t been remedied and it is rarely exposed in depth for the rest of us to see and understand.
Nothing, even remotely, comes close to pregnancy, labor and the birthing of my babies. The mystery of another life inside my body, moving, growing. The surprise of joy in the pain of birthing. Seeing those beloved babies... then raising those children. WOW!
My most defining moment was joining the US Air Force in July 1962, exactly one month after my eighteenth birthday. Having grown up in an alcoholic dysfunctional home where Friday night fights consisted of insults and screaming all the way into Sunday afternoons, it was refreshing to enter an environment where I would and could suddenly find myself. That my old man negated me routinely through most of my teen years found solace in Military service.
My evolution into young manhood was facilitated through recognition of skills I had theretofore been unaware of; at least in a more tangible sense. Assigned to classified Intel service, I went to tech school at Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo TX. I was elected to the first Airmen's Advisory Council, a council created by CAPT Donald L. Clark, Squadron Commander. CAPT Clark awarded me my first letter of commendation.
I spent three of my four years' service overseas, first in Germany and then in Pakistan. I was selected for a rapid-promotion two-tour program known as the 2T program. Young Airmen selected for this program would receive promotion to the rank of Staff Sergeant, E5. I received my promotion to Staff Sergeant one week before my twenty-first birthday. I was then promoted to Controller, Intel OPS for my section. Prior to returning to CONUS (Continental US) I received two letters of commendation. One letter from my OIC (Officer in Charge) 1LT Thomas Webster. The second letter came from MAJ Kevin Mullaney, OPS Commander. I was discharged honorably out of Charleston AFB, South Carolina, 12th July 1966.
I refer to my joining the Air Force as my "boy to man" phase. My father had gone to great lengths to diminish my sense of self-worth, having reminded me from time to time that I was the "mistake"; the unwanted child. Four years serving in USAF was a profoundly positive experience, where discovery of my leadership skills and commitment to mission and cause blossomed. I often reflect on the fact that I should have made USAF a career, and pursued the path to becoming a commissioned officer that was so attractive to me for a time.
After my discharge, I enrolled in the University of Maryland and completed my BS, Business in 1974. I took German as my minor, having been so enamored with Germany while stationed there. I put myself through undergrad working full time and using the benefit of the GI Bill.
I attribute my success in the private business to my Air Force experience. I learned there the sense of discipline and determination that my mother would say made the old man jealous. He resented my successes and tried to disclaim them. The process of self-discovery afforded me through my Military service has been an ongoing reward. That fact was punctuated in later years when sharing with a client how my family had served our country since the American Revolutionary War. My client responded, "I have noted that you have a Military style of management." He hastened to clarify: "That is not a criticism. It is an observation." Service in the Air Force was my great awakening. Indeed, it was the life event that moved me the most.
Losing my husband/best friend after 45 years of marriage. I morn his loss everyday! We raised 4 wonderful sons who gave us 8 extraordinary grand children, so my life has been blessed. However my life will never be complete again without him!
Strangely (or not), it was my divorce. The birth of my children was amazing but I always imagined myself as a mom so it didn’t have the same impact. I never imagined being divorced. I actively eschewed the idea, coming from a broken home. So when it happened, it nearly broke me. But like so many people who’ve been through it also know, it changed my life for the better. I became who I really am and am now engaged to the perfect partner for me. My life is not perfect and I still have sad feelings for how the divorce affected my kids, but they are grown now and they both acknowledge that their parents are so much happier.
The birth of our youngest son has to be tops. We adopted him from birth, which isn't that usual. We came across this young lady when she had just learned she had an unwanted pregnancy and didn't want an abortion, and so we kinda adopted her - went through all of her pregnancy, always by her side, and my wife touched his crown as he was coming out and she cut the cord, and I was the first to touch him when he was laid on the table, when he grasped my finger with a grip I will never forget. His birth mother agreed to let us have him from the delivery room, so we did everything but actually giving birth. Hard to explain the emotions around such an event, and I guess it will always be among the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I do agree that graduation from undergraduate and graduate schools were pretty high on my list as well, but it can't top the birth. He has also turned out to be a great kid and young man.
There are so many memorable happenings in a person's life. Being called into the principal's office and sitting through his fit because college prep kids shouldn't quit French II for, heaven forbid, typing.
My dad sitting with me on the back yard grass consoling me the day after high school graduation, for I
would probably never see many friends again, no longer be head majorette and lead the band down the football field and town parades, feeling lost, belonging nowhere in the interim till college. Falling in love with Penn State, hating to leave even for holidays. With over 750,000 living alumni, we greet each other with a "We Are" when ever we meet, and I have fun with wearers of Ohio State shirts, saying this year, we will beat them. Carrying my beautiful, smart Sheltie, Skipper, home after a big dog attacked him and shortly thereafter, leaving him at the vets over night when we went away, as they led him away, he stopped, looked back at me with tilted head and actually cried. I never saw him again. They say animals have no souls, but I am certain he did. Feeling pride in raising three honest, respectful children on my own refuting the idea that kids from single parent homes don't turn out so well. I was able to provide for them with no alimony and late if ever support, putting 2 through Penn State, one daughter now a director in an international company, the other , once in an advertising firm, now works for the Chamber of Commerce, and a son, a very independent type who could never work for anyone. has his own business and employs 2-4 people. All 3 are great parents themselves.
So, with all that said, I have to say my mother's death hurt me the most. At 92, down in her cellar to do a load of clothes, she fell to the floor dead-heart. So many memories. One of 11 children and a fun loving family, she had an identical twin sister, Helen & Hazel. Home was central PA where Daddy was principal of the school but moved us to northern PA when the local school districts consolidated. She hated it, was homesick every year there and at peace when Daddy retired and they moved back "home." When sitting beside one another, I always held her arm, and when shopping, she held mine. When we came out of a store, she could never remember which direction we had been going. For a birthday party when I was little, she went to the woods and cut red maple leaf branches for decorations. She would get up in the morning and cook, bake something in case someone stopped by that day. Delicious cinnamon rolls and baked beans, but to know how to make things, one had to sit and watch with pencil and paper, as couldn't tell you how . An expert on a sewing machine, she made all my clothes until I rebelled. She got a job, I picked out store clothes, and she would put them on lay away and pay so much weekly. They didn't charge interest then. She missed me so when I went away to college, she wanted to go with me and be a house mother, dorms had them then. She loved Hey, Good Lookin" by Hank Williams and would dance around the room while playing the record after my dad was gone. He, being raised on a farm by a strict German stereotype Methodist mother, one did not play cards, dance, work on Sunday, no drinking, never a swear word. When I was born, she told him he had raised my brother and sister, I was hers !! I was 14 and 10 years younger, and by that time, she had liberated him to the point that he and I would sit on the front porch glider and play card games, and I was allowed to go to the movies on Sunday. She would wash the dishes, I dried them. If we were on the outs, I would wait until she finished before I went into the kitchen, At those times, we called each other "Dearie." Didn't happen very often. She liked hats and wore white gloves like everyone did at one time. Told me how to position my legs when having my picture taken, and was a stickler on manners, even teaching me to always walk along the side of the sidewalk or going down stairs.
When I walked into the funeral home and saw her lying in that casket, I fainted. Had to sit awhile.When she fell, it had left a bump on her forehead, and it was still there. The old church my father's ancestors had founded was filled to the rafters. I wanted to scream when a man was closing the casket and let her head just drop when he removed a pillow. She is buried in the family grave yard. I will be below her if I go that route. With my father on her left, a man on her right is named Ralph. I say when I visit, I hope you and Ralph are getting along, Mom. She kept a small oval picture of Jesus above her bed. It hangs in my hallway. I think of her daily.
(Sorry to be so long. I am just such a detail person )
Mazel Tov, first of all!
The birth of my children, no question. It changed my life (for the better) in every way possible, even though (like many other parents) sometimes they make me understand why spiders eat their young! ;-)
Losing both my parents in one year. Absolutely terrifying.
“But in hindsight, now that I’m a parent and have attended these ceremonies as a professor, I can say clearly I was wrong.”
I completely agree. I did the same thing. Didn’t bother with high school college or even grad school. What was I thinking!? Opportunity lost.
Birth and death stuff. The emergence of my two sons: I was there to help deliver. My fathers passing: I was there holding his hands as he left. Pit of the nothingness we arrive, back into it we depart. Yin and Yang. ✌️💕
What a great question, Steven. We will all do well to ponder it. It’s so worthy, so profound, that I need to ponder it for a while. Thank you very much for helping us start!
Growing up in Wyoming Valley, I was cared for by Bertha, an obese five-foot-three descendant of slaves - who became more mother to us than our Mom. None of us knew the label “white privilege.” I became the black sheep of our family, hanging with kids across the tracks. Trying to please my tough Dad, I signed up to take training as an altar boy, thus discovering what hypocrisy meant, along with
“Elephant in the Room,” and a Polish priest brushing his shiny vestments against my very nervous rear end.
I left our town ASAP for Philly, then ultimately N.Y.C. In my first weeks in New
York, long before I knew I’d choose a service and nursing career, a call came from Mom.
“T, Bertha is there. Would you go see her? It’s called Sloan Kettering.” I got a subway map.
Went up those escalators and was directed to a large ward: it looked like WW1. Walked around the central nurses’ station. There she was, the last bed. I think both of our eyes popped out. I’m a 22 year-old kid, in a circus world. I never believed I’d see Bertha again, now with my chin on her side rail, at a loss for words. I couldn’t stand the silence. “You’re breathing so hard. I think I should come back tomorrow, give you some rest now.” I got to the end of this gymnasium-sized room, and turned to wave. She’s dragged herself up to a sitting position. “Bye!” It reaches everyone, like in a Broadway theater.
The next afternoon, I go straight to her bed. There’s an old man. Where is she? The aide comes to me. “Sorry honey, she passed when you left.”
Twenty years passed, and I get to do the greatest NYC work - caring for the descendants of slaves in their own homes.
The birth of my children, and walking my daughter down the isle at her wedding were the most impactful life events for me.
In 2003, I produced the first and for some years the only book by and about autistic women. One of my own entries in the anthology was titled "Mommy Wyrdest" in which I told of my childhood conviction that motherhood wasn't in the cards for me, affirmed when I was a tween by a distant Irish relative who read my palm and told me I wouldn't have children. "You're too selfish," she said. I knew my affect was flat as a pancake and was/am clearly asocial. Years later, I got a medical verdict, androsterone excess. As a mid-thirties broke grad student, I made peace with this expected outcome. No children. Six months later, I was pregnant. The birth of my son and later my daughter were my miracles. I mothered them oddly but apparently well. Well enough, anyway. They have no complaints and we're very close.
Mazel tov my friend. I will not comment on your mocking skills.
Before I even opened the link and saw the photo of the grad and read the story, the question immediately drew me to my college graduation. It was a happy day, a rewarding day, a fun day. Yet it was deeply sobering also. Even though I was going on to graduate school, somehow college graduation said to me: now you are an adult. My Parents guided me skillfully through my younger years, my high school years and guided me but gave me a lot of freedom during my college years. Also, being in the ivy tower, and sheltered by the campus environment, I felt I was in a protected growing up, learning, socializing world, insulated somewhat from having to deal with the real world and make real world decisions. That all ended after the graduation celebrations ended. Graduate school is an adult world. You have more input in choosing your path; and you are more a part of the real world. I felt that over the summer of 1972, all of a sudden I became an adult, with adult responsibilities, as well as adult privileges. I became a new me; and since then I continue to become a new me all of the time. As Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the URJ, once said: I am always in the process of becoming. That struck me as very profound; and I use it as 1 of my signature blocks on my email. It is also very important, that each of us continues to grow and evolve and participate anew in this ever changing world.
The births of my three daughters and four grandchildren were hugely life-affirming events for me. But another oddly rewarding event in my life was when I was turned down for a job promotion I had been promised and had worked hard to prepare for. I was so shocked and devastated when the company President told me they loved the work I was doing so they were going to keep me right there and put someone else in my promised position. I could barely speak. I resigned the next day and freelanced for a year. And then landed a part time job that was fun and undemanding and fit perfectly into my life at the time. That gig grew into my dream job that I worked at for 24 years. I am so grateful that the “promised” job didn’t pan out, because I was able to do my best work surrounded by people I genuinely cared about who believed in me 100 percent. There truly was a silver lining to my biggest disappointment.
To be sure, I've had more than my share of extraordinarily moving experiences in my life but the one that sticks out is what I've learned by turning my personal pain into a life of purpose. (The Missing Link project). When I started this journey I had a vague idea about what it is was and what I wanted to accomplish (to provide new coping skills to help people deal with anxiety and depression). What I've learned from this more than two year experience is that every obstacle I've faced (there have been many) has been no match for my commitment. To be honest there have been many many times where I didn't know what to do or where to turn. Without fail though, I've found an answer, and seemingly by happenstance have met people who were willing to help me. What I now believe is that if you are aligned with your purpose the answers will come and the problems will be solved. As this process continues my commitment grows giving me faith that my efforts are worth my time. This gives me the courage to forge ahead into the unknown without fear.
So, my most moving life event is ongoing.
I am most grateful... and curious to see where this ends!
So many memories of our two sons lives floated through my head as I read your article today. From their from births, to the toddlers years, to their first days at school, to high school and college graduations. Each phase, each chapter of their lives, is imprinted on my brain. Watching them crawl, walk and thrive. Waiting up for them as we all navigated and survived their teenage years and those early 20’s - when boys tend to feel invincible. But perhaps the most significant memory, and the one of the most important, just occurred. The first of our sons, our youngest, was married this April 1st. I was so very fortunate to dance at with him at his wedding. Our mother/son song was Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”. To me, it epitomizes the bond we all share in our family. In January 2016, I was diagnosed with a rare form of ALS called PLS, primary lateral sclerosis. At the time I wasn’t sure how long I’d live, let alone see them marry. I never dreamt I’d be so lucky as to dance that day. I never lose sight how fortunate I am to be here and hold every moment of his wedding close in my heart.
Apparently one doesn't have to drown
to have one's whole life pass before one's eyes
all it takes is a great question from Steven :)
so here we are
so many lives shared with one another
what a privilege it is
to be invited in by each of you
and to experience your pivotal moments
I started responding
then realized wow how many touch me
I lay awake a long time last night
seeking the life event that moved me most
I will go with Todd Beamer
calling out "Let's roll !"
as he summoned his band of heros
to save our people down below from death.
His courage and his love
have inspired me ever since.
In my work, I seek to build young Beamers.
Going off to college for me was a feast of freedom from a very Catholic and disciplined upbringing. I was in no way prepared for that much responsibility and wallowed recklessly to absorb as much "choice" as I could fit into a 24-hour day. Some of those choices were adventurously fun and easier on the risk of "no return" than others. I did find a fascination for hallucinogens in college, which often was a crap shoot between good and bad "trips." One experience in particular was witnessing an option of my own death. I saw visions of friends and relatives, alone and together, weeping, lamenting, commenting and pontificating on my upbringing, missed opportunities and my often dangerous escapades. I witnessed a stark picture of the sadness and non-acceptance of my passing. Upon reflection on the event when again conscious, I realized that the true meaning of the dream was the death of my ego and a chance to adjust my cravings, moderate my risks and open up to a more balanced lifestyle and purpose. Actually, I was lucky to find the experience to be a warning, a premonition of what was likely going to be my actual physical death and destruction. I embraced a new appreciation of my parents for what they thought was love and preparation for the many tough choices and consequences to come. My life and decision-making were completely changed as well as the results after that experience, now pleasantly retired at age 71. Thank you mom and dad.
I’m on the way to my daughter’s graduation from grad school in Rome, Italy.
Very proud and happy to be able to see her growing into a successful young woman!
Walking on the icy Great Wall of China with my 9 year old daughter on my birthday 1-16-1982. Sharing my lifelong dream of going to China -with her -halfway thru our year in Wuhan teaching at Huagong U of Science & Technology. She attended the Elementary school at the university and spoke Mandarin by that time. It was MAGICAL!!!
For the record, already fixed a verb issue. Never like when that happens. Alas.
I think for me, it was the death of my Mom. She died three months after my Dad, and while I was close with both of my parents, my Mom and I were closest.
We all smoked cigarettes...which, ultimately killed both of my parents. I was 7 months pregnant with what was to be my second son, and I was standing by her casket, smoking like a fiend. It didn't take me long to say to myself, "What's wrong with this picture?" and I promptly put out my cigarette in the ashtray, and crumpled up my pack of cigarettes too, and tossed them in the trash. When I told my husband what I did, he told me "your going to be such a bitch", and went to rescue my cigarettes.
That was back in 1986. My son was born healthy, as were my other three.
I have never looked back, and a cigarette has not been in my mouth since that afternoon. Both of my parents died at age 61, and I am proud to say that I have surpassed that age, and I feel great!
I’m sitting here reading this a day later with tears in my eyes. One of my best achievements just sent me a bunch of Giphy Mothers Day messages! Like most women giving birth is a life changing experience! I will add the day we dropped our son off for his basic training and our daughter’s graduation ( Pres. Obama was the featured speaker!) . Lastly was her wedding . It was a beautiful ceremony between two women, bi-racial and mixed religions! Our daughter had converted to Judaism. When the dee jay called us all to the dance floor to lead the Hora dance it was a true celebration of life! I will never forget that moment in my life.
Being present at the birth of my first grandchild. Such a privilege!
I too was quite blasé about my own graduations, though I did attend my law school graduation. At UT, the law school graduates separate from the other colleges in a ceremony called the Sunflower Ceremony, because like the sunflower follows the Sun, the law follows the truth. (Shout out to Ukraine). No regalia, just professional attire. I’ve never worn my academic regalia.
And like you, I love celebrating others’ transitions, birth to death. I rarely miss a funeral, because that’s when it really counts for those left behind.
I am moved by graduations, christenings and naming ceremonies, weddings, commissionings and all kinds of events that mark a change or transition.
Attending showers and funerals and graduations via zoom was a poignant marker of the times.
The ceremonies are for the community!
Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation
Here’s to sartorial distinction and funny hats!
This is very difficult because there have been so many. But I guess it would have to be the birth of my first grandchild; you don’t know how you’re going to feel about it since it’s not your child but theirs. But...i couldn’t believe the love I had for her and still do.
Let’s see what today brings!
Life ebbs and flows with a multitude of experiences that move us immeasurably, especially as we celebrate, and we mourn. My father's passing had a profound effect on me. I often reflect on how he had come from humble origins, born into a large family of siblings, and growing up in a small northern Lumber-milling community. Post wartime, he set out on his own, seeking better opportunities in a big city. Throughout his life he remained physically active in sports, and could outpace me on a cross-county ski trail. He loved Curling, and participated in Lawn Bowling, well into his late 80's. He embraced life, despite the challenges he faced, and encouraged my bother and me to pursue higher education, as a pathway to success. Following his death, I reflected on just how much influence he had in my life, as my primary parent. (My mother died when I was young.) He did the best he could, with what he had. It is humbling to know that we all face our own mortality. We can and should try to live a life of good purpose. He taught me that.
I had an anticlimactic and bittersweet college graduation experience. I was one of a handful of students in the class who wasn't of the traditional age. I was proud of the quality of the work I'd done, if not the speed at which I'd done it, but I had no intention of attending the ceremonies. The night before, I called one of my fellow older students and convinced him to attend with me. So there we were, standing symbolically at the end of the line, with all of the still-eager younger graduates at the front. The only person behind us in line that day was a campus cop. No, I didn't invite my elderly parents, and no, they probably wouldn't have accepted if I had. Still, it was an important rite, regardless of the circumstances.
Life gifts us with many surprises, but an experience as a ninth grader may have had the most lasting impact. Assigned to complete a career booklet (this would have been my 1966-67 school year), I ventured into a small classroom in a local church basement. Joining the class of 5-6 students during their music/dance class brought joy and awareness to my 14 year old heart. My career booklet, entitled, “Teacher of the Mentally Retarded” (an out of date term that has evolved to reflect abilities, not disabilities), foretold my future.
I was hired to provide special education services, along with 70-80 other new graduates, to children and young adults living in one of PA’s State Schools and Hospitals. Seven buildings, four wards per building, 20-25 individuals per ward (vast majority were children under 21) attended public school for the first time in September 1974. Imagine a life without parents, family, teachers, or at least one significant other? It creates chaos and unhappiness and limits an individual’s ability to recover from such trauma.
I find myself, again, worrying about a world that could lapse into this unforgivable state of treating others as less than “we”.
Congratulations on Katrina's graduation! The life event that moved me the most was definitely the birth of our twins, who are now in college themselves
For me, it’s an era, rather than any one event. Now in my early seventies with “children” in their late thirties and a 2-1/2 year old granddaughter, I’m celebrating how all of us are happier than ever in our own skins. The “children” are finding a lot of purpose, happiness, and fulfillment in their relationships and careers — AND they’re very fond of each other. The same is true for me.
My granddaughter hated school. We could not get her to go or stay in high school. Her other grandmother gave up on her and basically kicked her out of the house. I had a different idea and set her up in GED classes at the local community college. She was bored and really basically ready to take the tests. I paid for the testing and she quickly took three of the four tests and passed them with really good averages. The final test was the literature and writing test. She was terrified of writing an essay, but we went over how to write an essay, she knew her stuff. After that I would ask her, at least once a week, had she taken the test. One evening sitting at our table watching TV she walked in the door in a cap and gown she had bought with a cake that had "I did it" written on the top. I immediately burst into tears (I am not a crier). I was so determined to do what her other grandmother was not willing to do and to prove to my baby girl that I had confidence in her abilities and her intelligence it was the culmination of 19 years of supporting and encouraging her. Her marriage to her wife 2 months after almost gave me as much joy.
Twists and turns that shape a future life
Of course the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were seminal in my life. But the event that I will also remember always was the audience my then-14 year old grandson had with the late John Lewis in his office in Washington during a special trip for my grandson. Congressman Lewis spent a half an hour just talking to this young man. We asked the Congressman if he thought he would get beaten up at the Edmund Pettis bridge. He said he brought his toothbrush and a book, expecting to be arrested, but never thought they would actually beat him up.
Steve - what a great prompt, and like so many of those who've commented the answer isn't the big deals we closed, the speaking contests we won, the trophies, plaques and awards - not the fancy car or decadent golf resort holidays - because so much attention, time and money goes to those things and crafting the dream home. For me, being present at the birth of both of my daughters - I've known them all my life and being present with my grandchildren within hours of their births. Being present with my dad in the last hour of his life - taking with him, waiting with him while his unconscious body began to snore ... loud at first, and the diminishing to a whisper, and to an end. And, being present for a Jeopardy episode on December 7, 1986 - I put down my Bacardi and Coke - and haven't had a drink since. Being present, realizing I was an alcoholic who couldn't go on living unless it was living a sober life, because of the downward swirl I was in that would lead to the sewer and to death, bit I chose life instead. Most days are 'just day's like the ones everyone else lives, and I treasure mine - that I can be present for that every day.
Thanks for the opportunity to say that, and to tell that story. I'm becoming a big fan of yours and recommend you highly.
As I ponder your question before I click the button, there is another such moment - it's happened three times, when something I wrote or a speech I gave caused someone to reach out to me; by talking about drinking, my steps to sobriety and my encouragement to be on guard for those in our lives who are at risk of suicide - because, as I explained, before that last drink, that's where my life was headed. Three men - two have passed on, and a third one whose trembling outstretched hand wanted to shake mine, and I'm so proud each time we meet for a breakfast or cross paths at an event - we are both grateful for being present ..