As I sat at the funeral for Stafford High School teacher and head baseball coach Michael Mesa, a whirl of thoughts and emotions filtered through my mind.
I met Michael just a few weeks earlier when I was invited to throw out the first pitch at a game for the Spartans. I last saw him while he and his team were volunteering at the Classic Chevy Chili Challenge. Both times he was vibrant, friendly and full of life.
When the news reached me that he had collapsed and died after playing a game of paintball, I was stunned, as was everyone who knew him. At 26 years of age, he was one of the youngest head baseball coaches in the state and appeared to have a long and bright future ahead of him.
As speaker after speaker paid tribute to Michael I was reminded of how short and fragile life really is. Some people are blessed to live past the century mark. Some only live long enough to draw a few breaths before their tiny bodies give out. Most of us today can expect to see about 80 or so years. Either way, our lives are relatively short and the time we have is all we get.
(Let me interject here that as a Christian it is my firm belief that only those who are saved by grace through belief in Jesus Christ will get to spend eternity in paradise after they pass from this life. For sake of my argument here, I am referring to life as our corporeal existence here on earth.)
As we pass through the linear trajectory of time there are two things that are absolutely certain. We only get one shot at it and eventually it will come to an end. No one knows for certain when or how the end will come. That’s why it is vitally important to make sure we make the most of every moment we have. As each moment passes, it won’t be coming back. There are no do-overs in life.
This realization can either be inspiring or depressing. It has done both for me. Too often I look back and lament the many failures in my life. It’s easy to play the “what if” game. I can’t allow myself to do that. Not now. Not anymore. The time ahead is all we get and it shouldn’t be wasted living in the past.
The past is important in that it is where our experiences come from along with our lessons in life. It is a tool for learning, not a place to dwell.
I’m reminded as I listen to people talk about Michael Mesa’s hopes and dreams that I have so many of my own that are unfulfilled. No one is going to do them for me. I have to dream, plan, schedule and execute them in a manner though as if my life depends on it – because it does. And you should, too.
All of us need hope for the future and a dream of something to do and become. If you have a dream, create a plan to accomplish it. You would be surprised at how good life can be as you see your dreams become reality. As you reach these new peaks in life, realize that it is not the end but just the beginning. You now have a view to see over the horizon at new peaks to conquer and are equipped with the knowledge that you have what it takes to get the job done.
The late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to call people without a plan “wandering generalities.” He encouraged people to become “meaningful specifics.” Ziglar often used the analogy of an archer. “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” To hit the bull’s-eye of life you must have a goal – an aim or purpose – and you must plan and practice relentlessly.
Obstacles may cause you to deviate your course but they should never undermine your objective. You must live life on purpose. Keep in mind that we do not have one single purpose in life, but many. Our purposes are generally consistent with our beliefs but they change as we age and goals are achieved. We have overlapping purposes, such as those involving faith, family, work and hobbies.
Juggling those goals means setting priorities and boundaries for achievement. Never let subordinate desires derail your primary objectives. If your purpose is to be the best spouse and parent you can be, then be fully engaged in that when you get home from work. Don’t let social media or television take your time, devote it to your family.
If you have a big project to do at work, don’t allow yourself to get bogged down in emails, office gossip, fantasy sports leagues or other things that don’t help you keep focused on your objective. I’m not saying you should be laser-focused with blinders on to everything and everyone around you. That would be foolish and neglectful of others. Just be aware that it’s the distractions in life that can throw off your aim and cause you to miss your target.
You’ve got to swat the mosquitoes in life but you don’t do that by taking your aim off your goal to pursue the bug. That’s how the little things in life keep us from accomplishing great things.
I have seen too much greatness in my life squandered on social media. It’s something I lament and struggle with daily. Even so, I continue to swat at that mosquito and train my focus on the things that are important. You can’t take back what you’ve lost but you can gain everything that’s ahead of you.
Michael Mesa’s life came to a tragic and abrupt end. That could happen to any of us at any time. When my time comes, I want to leave knowing that my wife was loved passionately, my kids were raised to be good, productive citizens and that my work made a difference in this world. Ultimately there is not much more one could ask for.