“Few delights can equal the presence of one whom we trust utterly.” – George MacDonald
In 1975, I joined the Immaculate Conception Queensmen Drum & Bugle Corps. I had no talent, and had never played a musical instrument. For no particular reason, I tried out for the drum line, and was picked to be a snare drummer.
More than 40 years later, the boys I marched next to have become the men who I rely on for support and friendship.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a young man, I wasn’t known for being calm and serene. I would get upset at real and perceived wrongs, even when they were trivial. I thought I was right in my rage, and was convinced that I was full of what Aristotle called “righteous indignation”. Actually – I was just full of myself.
I drove my car fast, and paid several speeding fines. I made many decisions impulsively, and paid the consequences for poor choices. I was convinced that patience was a “natural” trait, and I didn’t have it.
Last week, my mother, Paula Fallon, passed away. As we wrote in her obituary, she lived an amazing life. On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, we held her funeral mass. This was the eulogy I delivered in her honor.
On behalf of the entire Fallon family, I want to thank all of you for joining us in this celebration of Paula’s life.
Paula. Paula Fitzpatrick. Paula Ann Fallon. Mrs. Fallon. The different names that accompanied her over the last 91 years. But that’s not what we called her.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai
It seems that every day, the volume of our conversations gets louder. Headlines using words like “destroy”, “disaster” and “debacle”. Facebook rants with all capital letters, curses, and multiple exclamation points. Twitter threads that go on for more than 20 entries, revealing the ineffectiveness of the 140-character limit.
And that’s just about sports.
“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” – Voltaire
It’s not the best of times. Hurricanes and flooding destroying homes on islands and on the mainland. Dozens killed and hundreds injured in a horrific attack on concertgoers. The opioid crisis continues unabated. Tense international disputes involving nuclear weapons. Divisive domestic political fights on a wide range of issues.
And those are just the topics dominating the headlines.
Often lost in the storms are the private struggles of so many people. Parents raising children amidst an uncertain future. Adult children caring for aging parents suffering from mental and physical impairments. People quietly grappling with problems only their loved ones understand.
In each of these stories we encounter heroes. People showing up with boats, supplies and food. Strangers throwing themselves on top of others, offering their own body as a shield from the bullets. Survivors using their status to raise awareness and funds. Individuals who decide to get out of bed, and push through another day of challenges.
Life is tough and difficult and beautiful and precious.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
I’m currently reading “Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science” (edited by John Brockman). The book is a collection of essays and conversations by scientists on their understanding of life – from evolution to genetics to the origins of life to the probability of life on other planets.
My favorite chapter is the transcript of a panel discussion on the concept of life. What makes the discussion so interesting is the varied points of views - biologists, geneticists, physicists and evolutionary philosophers. While each scientist had a primary field of study, they were also well-versed in a wide spectrum of topics. The physicist had read papers on genetics, and the biologist had studied chemistry, and so on. Their broad understanding of multiple subjects supplemented their specific fields.
We can learn from their habits. Too often, we allow our focus to become too narrow. Instead of improving our expertise in an area, our self-imposed limits stunt our growth – professionally and personally.
Reading and Books,
"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." – Kate DiCamillo
On a bright, sunny day, go outside with a strong flashlight. Turn on the light. You probably won’t see any difference.
Sit in a dark room. Light a single match. Your surroundings are transformed.
“The hotter things get, the more important it is to keep your cool.” – Harvey Mackay
My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:50am. While the airport is only 18 miles away from downtown Chicago, the drive can easily take an hour, sometimes longer. I scheduled for the shuttle van to pick me up at my hotel at 6:30. I was outside at 6:15, and 5 minutes later the van pulled up. This was going to be an easy travel day.
The driver had to pick up passengers at 3 other hotels, with the last person boarding at 6:50. This was later than my plans, but I stayed calm. Plenty of time, and there were some amusing conversations between the driver and the passengers.
When we reached the highway, the morning traffic jam was in full swing. As we crept along, you could feel the anxiety rising in the van. Some people had flights earlier than mine. The driver checked his navigation system, and it said we should get to the airport by 7:55.
A half-hour later, we heard the system announce we would arrive at 8:00.
Shortly after that, the voice said that another 10 minutes of delay had been added.
“If a man or woman is fond of books he or she will naturally seek the books that the mind and soul demand.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Recently, a friend posted a question on Facebook – “Mark, What's the best book about leadership have you read and recommend?” That’s a good question, and difficult to answer.
Reading and Books,