Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In some circumstances this may be true. Most often for me, the sincerest form of flattery turns out to be storytelling. I don’t try to imitate those individuals who I most fondly remember and love the most; I try to keep them “alive” by recounting their lives and lessons through story. You may have read about my Aunt Lorraine and “Lorraine’s Law,” or my grandmother (MaMa) and her “Turkey Bag” story. Both are great examples of stories about two important women from my life: my Aunt who is very much alive, and my Grandmother, who passed away more than ten years ago.
I share these ideas as I reflect back on the passing of my dear friend Bruce Paynter, who passed away a year ago today after a gallant fight with ALS. As I think back over the year, I am reminded of how many different moments I have thought about or spoken about Bruce. In a strange way, Bruce has been very present for me (and with me) over the past year and in some perspective I have been more present with him than in some of the years before his passing.
I have thought often about his conversations with me before he passed, some at his home, some from his hospital bed at the hospice facility. Not only have I written about them on this blog, but I have archived these essays in a group that you can find by clicking on the archive link to the left and scrolling down for the group of essays listed under ”Inspirations of Bruce.” Just this past weekend, I shared his thoughts on ”Communities Matter” with a group of friends. Take a look for yourself and see what connections you make to his thoughts and comments.
What also has been amazing over the past year is how many varied groups I have spoken to about Bruce: groups with nothing in common, and no previous connection to Bruce, his hometown of Appleton Wisconsin, or his company Kimberly- Clark. For a cab driver in Bakersfield California, a CEO in West Des Moines, Iowa, a group of non-profit executives in Atlanta, or a chamber of commerce luncheon gathering in Lufkin Texas, Bruce has come alive to a wide variety of audiences over the past year! In every case, the “stories” about his life lessons have touched the varied audiences deeply. In more than one instance, my “stories” about Bruce have triggered others to talk about friends or family members who they have lost, some even from ALS. These moments of real connection are not only the outcome of “stories” and conversations; they are the very real and tangible impact or “Legacy” of Bruce.
My hope is that you take a moment and think about a friend, a family member, or even an old boss and reflect on the lessons that you have learned from their lives. As these thoughts or “stories” come to mind, don’t just hold them close to your heart, share them with others. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how many people can be touched by those stories.
I share these thoughts today primarily to recognize and celebrate a dear old friend. I can’t believe that it has been twelve months since his passing. I think about Bruce all the time and am just one of many who miss him very much.