I wrote this blog post on December 29, 2019, three days before my beloved wife, Kitsen passed away due to a horseback riding accident. Interesting timing, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
In February of 2015, I opened The Arena Athletic Performance Center, a sports performance gym with a world class weight room, accomplished and credentialed performance coaches, an NCAA size basketball floor, five baseball / softball hitting tunnels, a recovery center and full locker rooms with showers. It was the culmination of a 15 year dream to own a facility where young men and women could come and train to get better at their game. It’s a family–oriented place where we help athletes of all ages and skill sets get stronger, bigger, faster, lose fat, gain muscle and extend their sporting careers. Actually, I built it with a vision to be a place where we can make a positive impact on a young man’s or young woman’s life. Since we opened, we have helped hundreds of folks reach their goals. Our membership includes eight year old soccer players, eleven year old baseball players, moms with an 8 to 5 job, Olympic figure skaters, high school, college and professional baseball and soccer players, and we train the number four ranked female bantamweight MMA fighter in the world.
Eric, my middle son, is our Performance Director and provides leadership to our performance division. Part of his job is to hire and train sports performance coaches and give direction in our weight room. Over the past five years, we have had some outstanding coaches. In fact, three of them have left us to put the talents learned with us to use in other venues. One coach is at the Olympic Training Center, another is in the Colorado Rockies organization and one is at the University of Texas. All of them are outstanding coaches with vastly different personalities, but they all cut their teeth in our weight room.
Tyler, our former coach that is now at the University of Texas shared something with us a few weeks ago that struck a chord with me. During his interview with UT, he was asked, “what do people miss about you?” It was an interesting question that I had never encountered in a conversation or an interview and it gave me pause.
I understood the question to mean that in your job, social settings, and day to day life, what is there about you that virtually no one knows? What “secret” talents, traits, abilities, thoughts, opinions, hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations or beliefs are a part of who you are as a human being, but that you don’t share with anyone other than the one or two closest relationships in your life? In other words, “what does the average person miss about you?” For some, they might be a great chef, musician, dancer or artist. For others, they might be able to fix anything quickly and accurately. Some people’s kids might call them “Mr. Math” because they can do math in their head and in public without fear. For others, maybe most don’t notice that they are simply nice, warm, wonderful people with a great sense of humor that gets repressed a bit because that’s not the environment in which they work or live; it’s not their “work persona.” We are all a bit deeper and soulful than meets the average eye.
My wife, on the other hand, understood the question to mean “what will people miss about you when you’re gone?” Not just what you did – the paycheck you faithfully brought home, the regularly balanced budget, the always clean and smooth running car, the ironed clothes hanging in the impeccably clean home and the warm and healthy (or not) meals you always had prepared – but who you were. The answer takes much more deeper reflection to answer. Will they keep the greeting on your voicemail for over a year just so they can hear your rich voice anytime they want? How about the smell of your pillow or that coat you wore all the time? Possibly your laugh, how they felt wrapped in your arms, or even how your fingernails felt when you gave a much needed back scratch?
All of us want to be remembered fondly, perhaps with a warm smile and profound appreciation for things done, bills paid, lessons taught, challenges met, hands held, backs had, tasks accomplished and encouraging words spoken at just the right time. There’s an old saying in sports that “the older I get, the better I was.” It sure seems like that could be rephrased a bit for loved ones gone to say, “the longer they’re gone, the nicer, sweeter, cooler, more loving, etc., they were.” Maybe that’s why many folks don’t put any of this stuff in writing. They’re banking on the latter thought. That we’ll push all of the bad memories down and cover them up with wheelbarrows full of good ones.
Here’s a final thought: “What do you want carved on your tombstone?” It can’t be a novel. Or a blog post. Or even a tweet. Just a few words. In stone. Forever. Morbid? Maybe. But if you want us to know what we missed about you when you were alive, and what you want us to remember about you when you’re gone, it’s important to figure it out now, and write it down. That way, there won’t be any arguments. Or selective memory.
PS. In my wife’s case, we put simply, “Jesus’ favorite.”
Douglas G. Goldberg, Esq.
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