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Part of the dilemma that defines us as human beings is the fact that we can get so wrapped up in planning for the future, learning from the past and fulfilling all of our responsibilities, that we can miss out on opportunities to truly experience life in “the now.”  There have been more than a few reminders lately that tomorrow is not a guarantee, and this was made powerfully evident in the past week as a friend and colleague, Alan, lost his battle with cancer.   About a week ago I read a note from Alan stating that his liver was failing, he could no longer participate in clinical trials, and basically he would move on from this life with his wife and boys at home, by his side.  Along with this information was the following excerpt (in Alan’s words)…

“It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with you over the years.  I’m just sorry that I won’t have the chance to continue, but I know that the Division is in good hands.  I’ve led a very full life – I’ve emigrated twice, ridden in an Olympic bobsled (I was the brake man), wind surfed in both a tornado and in a hurricane, skied off a cliff and driven my brand-new motor-cycle into the front of a car coming the other way, to say nothing of raising a couple of spirited boys and marrying the finest woman in the world.  I think I’ve packed more into my fifty-five years than a lot of people pack into eighty.”

I will note that although Alan battled cancer for over four years, he worked every day he was able, with passion and a positive attitude, and never gave up any part of his happiness to the disease.

One of the core values by which I try and live is to enjoy each day as much as possible and to actively participate in life (even if participation means engaging in potentially scary, silly, or embarrassing things).  I’m not talking about doing things that are outrageously dangerous or illegal, but I am talking about “opting in” far more often that I “opt out” of opportunities, challenges, or new experiences.  For example, a couple of years ago, I set a goal to try going off of some of the larger ski jumps that the resorts typically mark with flags (requiring full commitment), and by the end of the season I was flying off of them and having a great time – – wearing a helmet of course [Vid Here].  When my son asks me to play FIFA Soccer with him on the PS3 my answer is “Yes” even if I’m tired and had a rough day.  If my daughter wants to have a dance party, I’m “all in” and have been known to throw in some breakin’ moves (aka Boogaloo Shrimp).  Even my recent addiction to Tough Mudders is a a part of living life to the fullest, staying healthy, motivated and engaged.  I don’t want to miss a single opportunity, I don’t want to let social mores about age define what I do and don’t do, and I want to live without regrets.

There’s song by Lee Ann Womack called “I Hope You Dance.”  To be honest, I’m not a big fan of country music, but I love this song and would like to share a few lines with you…

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small, when you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…
I hope you dance.”

You were an inspiration Alan and will be missed.  Rest in peace.

Small steps add up.