In Steven Covey's very first "Seven Habits" book the idea of "begin with the end in mind" stuck with me. He included an exercise in the book where you wrote your eulogy... and then took steps to begin to live it! Last Friday, I shared an evening by the fire with the good friends of a former colleague and friend in Boulder, Colorado, to celebrate a life well lived. I was living the final step of Covey's exercise.
"When I first met Gary, I wanted to fire him. I was new to Boulder and what I saw in Gary was a somewhat whacked out, middle-aged, "been-everywhere-done-everything" kind of long-haired, ponytailed guy who cruised around town in an old white dodge panel van. God only knew what went on in that van. I was fresh off the boat from nice, conservative Orange County, and Gary well, scared me. His supervisor at the time stood by him though.. I was outgunned in my efforts to send him packing. So, I followed the sage advice to "keep your friends close and everyone else a little closer.:" I kept an eye on Gary.
I visited the school where he worked with young people and saw everyone doing cool stuff, clearly either buffaloed by Gary's schtick or connecting to his whackiness. I visited Camp Ora-Penn up near Nederland, and saw what he was doing there and was impressed he could make lemonade from the few lemons that little patch of dirt provided. I listened to his stories and learned he had worked for a former boss of mine in San Diego, and thought it might be good to do a little more checking, but I never did... because... what I kept seeing, and learning, was that Gary was the real deal. He was spontaneous, creative, fun-loving, unique... and he was loved and respected by those around him. I grew to admire and appreciate him as well.
When I was in Indian Princesses with my daughter, Gary would show up at our campouts to help with the skits and songs and such... he wasn't the best I've ever seen, but he was lovable, and laughable, enjoyable, and a great cook. My guess is that the folks in the back office had to chase him for all the rosters and reports, but they did so with a shrug and a smile, because he was Gary. You just had to love him.
Years later, my girls and I had a chance to spend a weekend at his place in Baja. The only way to describe his place is to say that it is "All Gary." Everything is a piece of art crafted from old stuff from God knows where. Even the white van was a part of the tableau. My daughters and I did the only thing you could do there... we created art... we sat on the back deck with our watercolors and whiled away the hours trying to capture the colored nuance of rocks, water, and sky.
What's interesting though is that Gary wasn't there that weekend. But, he was.
And he's not here tonight. But, he is. He's here in our hearts, in our memories of his art. Gary's art was his life. He created joy. Even in his sickness the last couple of years, he had that twinkle in his eye, that smile, that almost child-like outlook. And that remains with us today.
There are very few people it seems who embrace life as art the way Gary did, or does. That lives on in me when I can turn and see something from a different perspective, when I can see something of beauty in an old white van.
Gary wasn't perfect... he had annoyances just like all of us... but with him it is easy to overlook those as insignificant because he's so darned cool.
So, thank you Gary for showing us a life well-lived, for bringing beauty, and laughter to the world.
Travel well. Godspeed, my friend."