For Whom the Bell Tolls

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

Many meanings have been ascribed to this famous quote, but all of them relate to the concept of death and our interconnectedness around the reality of death. I, however, see this concept as relating to our interconnectedness in life and to the lessons that we take take from death –beautiful and long lasting lessons for life.

This past week I lost a friend. My friend — Laz (Larry) Flynn — peacefully passed away on Sunday, January 8th. I met Laz through the Mankind Project in September 2012 when I staffed his New Warrior Training Adventure. Laz was a fierce and loving man – one who deeply desired to be a better man and to serve the world and his friends and family. And Laz was imperfectly human (like me), but he had such a beautiful heart for people and would do anything for his friends and family.

Laz was in a coma for two weeks before he finally left us on Sunday. I’m sad at this loss, for me and for his girlfriend, his son, his daughter, his brothers, his family and the world. Laz wanted to make a difference, and he was working hard on who he was as a man. I loved and still love Laz, and I’m grateful for knowing him for the past 4 plus years. He touched my life, my spirit and my soul in many amazing and beautiful ways. And he challenged me in profound ways – ways which will stay with me forever.

In the midst of the loss, sadness and tragedy, there is joy and gratitude. I’m grateful and joyful for the ways that Laz’s family and friends supported him and each other. I spent a lot of time with Laz at the hospital the past few weeks, and I witnessed love in action as his girlfriend, brothers, children, family and friends prayed for him (and each other) and supported Laz and each other. It was a beautiful and moving experience to witness. And I saw healing happening through this tragedy and loss, healing which I know will continue in the future.

This is a piece of my experience of the loss of Laz, and there are reminders and deep lessons in it about my life, your life, and our shared life as humanity.

Lesson 1: I (and you) have no guarantees of anything in life beyond this moment, and I have the choice as to whether I live my life aware of its preciousness or not. In my experience, this is a common perspective felt and shared when we lose someone close to us, but does it stick? Do we carry this perspective on in our lives or does it quickly get lost in the busyness of life, commitments and stuff? My challenge to myself and to you is to carry the reality of the preciousness of life into everything you do, every relationship and every communication.

Lesson 2: I and you always have time for what’s important. I would not have thought that I had all the time available that I spent at the hospital the past two weeks, but I did when it mattered, and everything else got handled. Somehow the other areas of my life got what they needed. Yes, I got behind on a few things, but everything is okay. The lesson is not that I can drop everything else in my life and do whatever I want – the lesson is that if it’s important, I will find a way.

Lesson 3: If it’s important (or someone is important), do it now. I need to spend time with the people that I care about now and not wait until the timing is better or more perfect. There’s no time like the present moment, because you’re never assured of the future moment. I often have this reaction when someone passes away, and this time the message is louder and clearer.

Now what? My intention is to stay mindful of these truths beyond the timing of this loss and this tragedy. I intend to live my life even more deeply committed to my mission and my values, with a sense of urgency for myself and with those that I care about. I hope you’ll do the same.

If you love someone, tell them. If you need help, ask for it. If you believe in someone, let them hear you say it. If you want to connect with someone, make the time and connect. Life is precious. Love is abundant. Time is an illusion. And remember, the bell tolls for you. What matters is this moment and what you choose to do with it!

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