a life well lived


If there are no tears in your eyes there is no rainbow in your heart.

Jane Goodall

Did you notice I haven’t posted since Nov 1? I did. And it has been really bothering me! Words and ideas have been like a disjointed swarm in my head… joy, fulfillment, doing enough of what you love, doing vs. being, authenticity, looking in, looking out, really looking…what’s most important.

Year end is a challenging time; it is the time of year when, in my role as HR Executive for 2 companies, we review compensation, (fortunately) award bonuses, and do benefits analysis and open enrollment. It is also holiday party and gift time. It’s crunch time and gets quite overwhelming. Mix in Thanksgiving and other holiday festivities and just day to day life stuff and it’s really easy to lose my footing and forget to focus on some of the things I love doing most. So, there I was not having created the space, the quiet moment conducive to doing this thing I have found I love doing.

Then something happened. Something that has only happened 3 other times in a 30 year HR career. One of my colleagues passed away suddenly. Not a family member or someone I even knew extremely well or for that long (in the scheme of either of our lives). But there is something about dying while working that just takes my breath away and has given me pause, solidified my thoughts and inspired my writing.

John was working in the morning on the day he died. He was texting and approving time cards, just like every other Tuesday morning. By 4pm I was on the other end of the line listening to a voice say, “John Palmer passed away.” What?!

John was 71 years old. After the shock of hearing this message, one of my immediate thoughts was that I hoped that he was doing what brings him joy. The related thought of course, was: could I say that I was doing what brings me joy and being who I want to be if it had been me?

John leaves a most incredible personal and professional legacy. And according to the people that knew John best the answer to my question was a resounding YES. He was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing and had a faith so strong that he knew where he was going when it was over and in the words of Danny Hillis “he was ok with that”.

I wrote this post on Delta flight 1211 from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles after attending John Palmer’s funeral along with about 250 other people who were there to honor his incredible life. He leaves behind a wife, a brother and sister, 10 children, 7 step children and 52 grandchildren, a career during which he lead the invention of computing technology that changed the world and that we all take for granted each and every day, and a life filled with generosity and commitment to his family and community.

As I sit here reflecting on the day and the tears I shed as I listened to his wife, Danny Hillis, his brother and 10 of his children and step children tell heartwarming stories and his grandchildren sing and play beautiful music, I realize that they are tears of reflection, tears of acknowledgement, tears of longing, knowing and caring about what matters most. They are tears of hope, joy, inspiration and compassion inspired by John and not only because of what he did but who he was to all of those with whom he came in contact.

Over and over again, people reflected that John Palmer had a life well lived.

What does your “life well lived” look like? And, if you’re not living it yet, what are you waiting for?

photo by Lynne Bernstein © 2017


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