A Good, Full Life
New Year’s Eve, while I was on the dance floor with my older son, my dad passed away in a hospital 185 miles away.
Still feeling full of the joy and hope that comes with bringing in a new year, I was stunned into emptiness as my brother told me the news. Empty and full — at the same time.
By anyone’s standards Stew Meyer lived a good life, a full life.
- graduated from West Point in 1943 and was quickly deployed to Europe at the height of WWII, leading men across France into Germany
- served in combat in three wars: WWII, Korea, and Vietnam
- earned the Silver Star for Gallantry, Purple Heart, five Bronze Stars, 16 air metals, and the list goes on
- mayor of my hometown from 1993-1997
The list of bullet points above was pulled from the various newspaper articles that have been written about him since his death. And to that list I could’ve added many more accomplishments. But I didn’t. From that list you can see he lived a full life.
When I called my mom and spoke to her for the first time after Dad’s passing, I asked her how she was, and she answered with one word: “Empty.”
Her heart was broken. Her Love was gone.
The man who raised me from 9-years old on, was gone.
And although my mom and I are both fully aware of the fact that Dad lives within our hearts, we are still human. So we grieve. And we celebrate his life. But we grieve all the same. Empty and full — at the same time.
During the visitation at the funeral home, one man told Dad’s youngest daughter (from his first marriage) how much he was going to miss her father. He said, “It’s going to take a long time to get over the loss of such a great man.” To which his daughter replied, “I don’t plan on ever getting over it.”
See, Dad continues to live in her heart as well. And the hearts of so many others.
As I feel the love I have in my heart for such a kind and gentle man, I feel full. And empty. How bizarre.
I imagine my dad may have felt full and mostly empty as he entered a Nazi death camp during World War II. Full, knowing he was liberating a concentration camp, yet overwhelmingly empty as his eyes went from the Jewish prisoners who were “clawing at the wire,” as he said, wanting to get out, and the surrounding dead bodies that were strewn everywhere, not yet buried.
These are extreme circumstances: full and empty remembering a loved one who meant so much to my family, to my development from child to adult. Full and empty seeing the worse than dire conditions of a concentration camp.
Clearly these things are not every day occurrences. Yet so often you hear how empty people feel. As you start 2013, ask yourself this:
What will it take for me to feel Full?
or at a minimum…
Am I getting my needs met on a regular basis?
What matters most to me?
Am I spending time on those things?
Am I inspired by the way I’m living my life?
or at a minimum…
Do I feel like I’m moving in the right direction?
As much as possible, release yourself from emptiness, strive for what makes you full, and then don’t settle.
In celebration of the life of Stewart Meyer, in recognition of the inspiration he continues to be, I release myself of emptiness, I strive for what makes me full, and I will not settle for less.
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