Justin Ricklefs

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It’s a Great Day to Be Me & Other Lessons Learned From a Funeral

Tuesday was a tough day. I sat through a funeral of a man who died far too young. He was in a tragic automobile accident and left his family and friends too soon.

He was the dad of a dear childhood friend and teammate of mine. I didn’t know him well, but the positive encounters I did have with him earlier in life were clarified and solidified by his funeral yesterday.

Funerals are a sober reminder that the things we are chasing will ultimately come to an end. There will be a period at the end of the sentence.

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Tuesday’s funeral was framed up as a celebration of life however, and that proved to be an incredibly fitting theme.

As I sat down, in a crowd of nearly 500 people, photos rolled across the big screen. Photos of him coaching little league football. Photos of him with his grand-kids. Photos of him with his wife of 40+ years. Photos from Halloween parties with friends. Photos of big moments in his kids’ lives.

Photos of things that mattered. Photos of legacy-type things.

Through tears, remarkable tributes were given about this man. From his pastor, his sister, his daughter, his two sons, his company and even his nine year old granddaughter. Tributes that made me well up with tears too.

Tears of sadness for sure.  But also tears that reminded me to keep fighting to live for the important not simply the urgent.

Six themes kept arising throughout the celebration.

1. Live Life Well. Because It’s Short.

When you’re in the middle of it like we are, it sure doesn’t feel short. It feels hard. Confusing. Chaotic. Overwhelming. But it really is a blink, so live life well.

2. Live Life For The Benefit Of Others.

Many words were used to describe this man. Selfless, sacrificial, helpful, giving were among the most frequent. He sought the good of others before his own. He gave his life away for the benefit of others.

3. Encourage.

In a world full of cynics and critics, this man stood out because of the way he encouraged people. He smiled, laughed, danced and reminded those around him that, regardless of current circumstances, things were going to be OK.

4. Be Thankful.

A friend had a letter from this man from over 10 years ago. He read it aloud from the stage and the letter ended with, “In all things, give thanks.” This man poured thankfulness from his life, and in turn, it attracted many people to him as was evidenced by the support he had Tuesday.

5. Stay In The Game.

Whether it was the game of football or the game of life, this man continued to remind people to stay in the game. To keep battling. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. To do the hard work even when you feel like giving up. To keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other.

6. Say I Love You.

His wife, kids, grand-kids, friends and even colleagues heard “I love you” from this man often. People are starved for love, and he was not shy to give it. Through words, hugs, and actions.

This man often said, “It’s a great day to be me.” This declaration confirmed his desire to live with joy and with meaning.

A man that was fully alive, not simply existing.

Indeed, it’s a great day to be me. I’m grateful for that reminder from an incredible man.

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