I was wearing a brand new suit and preparing to leave home for the airport. My trip was to Chicago to attend the annual fundraiser for Operation PUSH where I served as National Coordinator. We expected 10,000 people to be in attendance. Just as I was about to grab my suitcase, my telephone rang. It was my brother calling me. The two words he spoke marked the beginning of the rest of my life. My brother simply said, “Daddy’s gone!”
My dad had been admitted to the hospital a few days earlier to undergo tests. Today those same tests would not require being hospitalized. But back then my dad had to actually be put to sleep and have the doctor cut him open to look inside his colon. The tests had been complete and I had visited with my dad the night before. He was doing fine while I was there. So when my brother told me that dad was gone, I told him that he had probably been transferred to another room. “No,” my brother replied. “Daddy died last night.” We later learned that the anesthesiologist administered too much anesthesia and it induced a heart attack that killed him. My father was 47 years old. And he was my best friend.
The pain of my loss paralyzed me. And I was overwhelmed by the responsibilities that were now mine as the oldest of three children – the youngest being my eight old sister. This was the darkest day of my life.
Everyone has a dark day. Divorce, criminal conviction, job loss, home foreclosure, business failure, illness, betrayal and death are just a few experiences that can stop us in our tracks. When we are stopped by events or circumstances, we can momentarily lose our passion. Sometimes it is actually longer than momentary. Some never get it back. Here is what I learned after my father’s death.
It was my job to write my dad’s obituary. As I wrote, I described his accomplishments. But I also felt compelled to describe his character, his beliefs and his faith. It became clear that it was not enough to include information about what he did during his life. What became more urgent for me was to let people know who he really was – what he stood for and believed in. In the end I wanted people to understand that his mission was to be a man of integrity and character and that he had fulfilled his mission.
It was at that very moment that I realized that I didn’t have a mission. Without a clear mission I would perhaps remain stuck in my pain or just always be busy doing projects for the rest of my life. With a clear mission I would stay focused on my purpose for being alive. When we cannot feel our passion, we can still see our mission!
1. In 25 words or less write your personal mission statement.
2. Write a draft of your own obituary – what you would want read at your funeral.
3. Ask someone close to you what he or she thinks your mission is and compare it to your own mission statement.