It’s Holiday Season – Don’t Make the Mistake I Made

I made a bunch of phone calls this week but reached few of the persons I wanted to. Companies are slowing down and executives are more concerned with holiday plans than business.

My wife is in California visiting our daughter and I am holding the fort in New York looking after my mother-in-law who is the most good-natured and undemanding elder relative you can hope to find.

And I am also taking stock and acknowledging the many blessings in my life. And I am remembering my friend.

We had known each other for more than three decades and met socially many times in the early days.

Then he moved west and I moved east so geography intervened. I used to joke that New York was close to the largest toxic dump in the world – a dump called New Jersey. As a new resident of that state he did not agree.

We met for lunch two or three times a year. He would drive more than two-thirds of the way braving both river crossings. Sometimes the trip would take him two hours each way but he never complained or suggested that perhaps I could come closer to him the next time.

We had deep conversations. We discussed family and philosophy and business and where we were headed in our lives.

When I was passing through a turbulent phase in my life he found his own gentle way of supporting me. He was unfailingly encouraging and frequently gave me examples of how something I had told him made a big impact on his life. He was not lying, nor was he flattering. He was trying to get me to expand my thinking to reach more people. And reassuring me that I was OK.

We were supposed to meet one day but something intervened so I asked if we could re-schedule. He was leaving on an international trip so we agreed to meet on his return.

He emailed me when he got back and we scheduled but I canceled again. He sent me alternate dates but none of them worked for me. He called me to set something up in real time. I explained that several projects were coming to a head at the same time so could we meet in six months.

Of course he agreed readily. He emailed me again in a few months and I meant to reply but, somehow, it got lost in my in-box and I never replied.

He called me from Florida where he was vacationing and we had a brief conversation because I was interrupted by another call. We agreed to meet on his return.

I dropped the ball again.

I was in London on a business trip. I came across his old email and determined that we absolutely should get together. It had now been more than two years since our last meeting. 

The next day my wife called me. He had passed away peacefully and she wanted to know if I would be back for the funeral service.

Pancreatic cancer moves swiftly. He was pretty far gone when he called me from Florida. I keep wondering if he would have told me about it if I had not abruptly ended our call.

And I kick myself for not knowing, for not being there for him whereas he always made time for me when I needed it.

And he was gone before I could say goodbye or let him know how much I valued his friendship.

Life always encroaches. The ‘urgent’ rides roughshod over us and sidelines the ‘important.’

There is someone in your life who is important to you. You wish him – or her – well and love him dearly. But you have not made the phone call or sent him the email to let him know this.

You want to. You mean to. But something always intervenes and you resolve to do it ‘tomorrow.’

Sometimes tomorrow never comes.

So, reach out to that person TODAY. Draft and send that email. Make the phone call. Don’t set yourself up for unending regret. You will bring joy to his life.

And to yours.

Peace to you and yours.

Srikumar Rao