Last Monday night I got a text out of the blue from a friend I had lost contact with over the last few years. Mike was letting me know that his father-in-law Doug had passed away. I was shocked. I started thinking… I’m 52 years old, how old is Doug? 10 years older than me? Was he sick? Was it a car accident? What could have happened?
About 17 years ago, while I was living in the Washington, DC area with my wife Dana, we made the decision to build a house on Suncook Lake in New Hampshire. For the next 10 or so years it was our special place. Every year, we would drive up on Memorial Day weekend and drive home on Labor Day weekend. During the fall we would fly up to pick apples and enjoy the foliage. During the winter, our weekends were spent skiing at Gunstock. There were a lot of memories at that house.
We built great relationships with our neighbors and all the people on the lake, after all, it was a small lake and that’s what lake people do. Doug was the lake’s premier water skier. He built his own course on the lake and owned the coolest Corvette boat around. On early mornings when he would head out for a ski on the pristine water, I would simply sit on my dock and watch in admiration at how awesome his rooster-tails were when he skied. One day after his run was complete, he slowly came over to my dock, introduced himself, and asked if I wanted a tow. Who wouldn’t want to ski off the back of the coolest boat with the best skier on the lake? That sparked a decade-long relationship of lots of early morning ski adventures, and lots of coaching and lessons in between.
Eventually, my kid’s sports took over our summers – lacrosse through the end of July and football starting the first of August. We found ourselves not really going up to the lake at all, not even to ski during the winter because that was basketball season.So, we held a family vote on selling the lake house – I lost! Dana and both kids voted to sell, I voted to keep. We sold the house about 5 or 6 years ago and have only been back once – that wasn’t the plan but youth sports became high school sports, and Merchants growth has kept me quite busy these last 4 years.
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of spending the day in Boston for what was perhaps the best client meeting I have attended in my 5 years with Merchants. Our sales team was playing at a Championship level, our EV team electrified the room, our marketing team shined, and the clients were thankful, appreciative, and also struck by our innovation and open-minded thinking of Merchants Fleet – truly a stunning meeting. After leaving the meeting I traveled north to Melrose to Doug’s wake. I arrived a few minutes after it started, and the line was a testimony to his life. As I stood there I saw lots of old friends from the lake – and of course all of Doug’s family. No one had changed a bit – everyone was exactly how I had remembered them – granted there were more kids and grandkids that had sprouted over the years but that is life’s journey. Our comments to each other, after remembering Dougie were all the same, “let’s see each other this summer, let’s reconnect, too much time has passed.” I guess this conversation plays out at most wakes and funerals. I also talked to many people that I kind of remembered, or quite candidly didn’t remember at all. And their comments to me were all the same – “you’re the guy who always had the fireworks, you had the best parties, I enjoyed your boat and crew entertaining the lake, you were so much fun, we miss you.”
After I paid my respects, I got back in the car and headed home to Nashua. With traffic, it took a little over an hour, but the ride was timeless and even motionless. All I could do is think of all the good times at the lake – the smiles, the early morning ski runs, the crazy lakefest parties, the kids-upon-kids-upon-kids, the tubing, the firepits, the smores, and the incredible group of people.
Doug was not sick, he was living a full and happy life, and had spent the day before with his wife, their children, husbands, wives, and grandkids on Mother’s Day. Less than 24 hours later, he had a sudden and tragic heart attack and God brought him home. In Doug’s life and in his untimely death there is a lesson I learned last Thursday, and that is what I write to you about today and ask for you to reflect on this week.
Are YOU LIVING?
Summer is here, let’s make memories with our family and friends, let’s capture and recapture our vibrancy, and let’s live each day to the fullest.
Thank you, Doug and family, for the memories but also for the reminder that life is to be LIVED – fast and loud!