Honour and respect – my mate’s death has had more impact on me than I thought…
I lost a mate last Sunday.
His name was Lewis Zhi Liu. We’d been playing soccer together for years… I guess it’s like 10 years now. Here’s a photo of us from a recent FIFA World Cup qualifier. (Sorry, correction, this photo is from a local over 45 comp… which we won.)
It’s always tempting to glorify those who’ve left – to go on about how dangerous he was from the left or right boot, about his vision and play-making abilities, about how he was like an iron wall made of tigers in defence.
But look, to be honest, he wasn’t the most talented player on the team (which is obviously me), and he wasn’t even the second most talented.
But he was a lot of fun to play with. He loved the game and he loved the team. And when he was on the field, he gave it everything.
Watching Lewis play, you remembered what football was about.
But then during last Sunday’s game, just 20 minutes in, Lewis had a heart-attack.
One of the lads started CPR but it was too late. The ambo’s came, but there was nothing they could do.
Lewis was gone.
And that was it. Just like that. One minute he was there, buzzing around the field like he always does. The next minute, gone.
It’s enough to give the psyche whip-lash.
I’ve been surprised at how much mental real estate Lewis’ death has taken up in my mind this week – and how deeply his death has affected me.
You know, I thought I was cool with the whole death thing. Just a natural part of life and all that.
And in many ways, in the broader sweep of history, Lewis’s story is a happy story. He was a good and honourable man. He lived a rich life. He died doing what he loved. He is fondly remembered and respected, and his community genuinely mourns his loss.
Can any man ask for much more than that?
That said, I doubt Lewis would have said he was done with life. He was in his mid-50s (like me!). He was fit and full of energy and passion. It’s shocking and it’s a shame.
(And you know, he was Chinese so I thought he was going to live to be like 100.)
And I guess that’s why it’s a bit of a slap in the face for me. When I lost my father last year that hurt. A lot. But death was still a generation removed then. Now it feels like death is inside the city walls. He’s got his cold eye on my generation, my friends, my team mates…
… on me.
And so I’m taking stock. Am I really ready to bow out? What’s still left undone? If I died tomorrow could I really say I died without regrets?
(I’m still pondering that one!)
And there is something that Lewis brought to my life and to our team that I’m really going to miss.
As we mull over Lewis’ passing, I think we’re really appreciating Lewis’ attitude – the way he got in there and gave it a go – gave it everything.
It’s such a great energy to have around.
And at the end of the day, I think people will admire your achievements, but they respect you for the person you are.
And by that I mean, you can do all sorts of things that make people ohh and ahh. You can be one of the flashiest footballers that ever lived.
But if you’re an A-grade turd, what’s the point?
People might admire what you’ve done, but they won’t respect you as a person.
And respect counts for something.
Lewis’s life is a lesson in this.
He wasn’t the most brilliant player, but he had fire and he had integrity. We respected him. We loved him. We’re going to miss him.
And I know respect and honour seems like a little bit of a dated value-system in era of whatever-it-takes celebrity and political classes.
But I still think it’s important. I’m not quite sure how. Maybe in a transcendental way. It’s like integrity and honour are the robes our souls carry over to the other side.
And integrity and honour define our legacy to world. It is who we are as people that becomes the gifts we leave to future generations.
And perhaps they are the only measure of a life worth worrying about..?
And so Lewis’s passing has been a reminder that life is short, and you’ve got to make the most of your time here.
But it’s also got me looking at my goals and wondering if I’m all a bit too outcome-focused.
Am I giving enough energy to the kind of person I am? Am I living with as much honour and integrity as I can muster? What robes will I be carrying over to the other side?
And will the people gathered on either side of the gates of death say, ‘Jon was a good man. His was a life well lived.’
Will they remember me the way that, this week, we all remember Lewis?
These are not easy questions to answer.
Maybe you just do what you can.
But today I’m raising a glass for Lewis. I want to let him know that he’ll be missed. I want to let his family know that we’re thinking of them.
And when you get to heaven Lewis, start stringing up the nets. We’re not that far behind you.
Why do we value ‘honour’?