Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things That Matter Most

On Halloween morning I was sitting at my computer about to start an important conversation with my book editor, when she gave me the news.

Michael Palmer had passed away just a day earlier. Suddenly.

My heart stopped for a moment and fell to the pit of my stomach. I don’t think she realized Michael was not just an author we looked up to, but he was a friend. He meant a great deal to me, and I mourned him that morning with tears, filled with sorrow and regret.

You see, I met Michael just two years ago at a writer’s conference. I remember talking with him before the conference started with my friend Carine. The three of us talking casually. I didn’t realize whom he was or that he was the keynote speaker that morning. He was just a nice guy.

During his speech he said something that was so profound, that it became my motto within my work. He said, “Writing is hard, be fearless.”

When he returned from the podium after his keynote, I called him Dr. Palmer. With a big laugh, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and said, “Ah Fuck, call me Michael.” Through out the conference he forged a friendship with Carine and me, one that left us with his warm spirit and wise words imprinted on us forever.

When I listened to the heartfelt words of his three sons during his funeral broadcast, I learned that many people have had the same experience. It was a combination of his compassion and enthusiasm. He had a way of making you feel like you were a special person. As if he could see the true value in everyone’s life. I remember that often and try to live that way too.

Michael lived a life that I not only admired, but sought after. He was a physician and a successful author. I wanted to know how he did it, how he spent his days, what was his best advice for a new author. For whatever reason, I put off having that conversation with him. I think because I didn’t want to jeopardize his time, though I know he would have given it joyfully.

Finally, in early October I contacted him to set up that meeting. I was traveling to the west coast and we planned to speak when I returned and before he went to South Africa. I started Oath of Office on the plane to California and wanted to finish it before our talk. But when I returned my schedule became busy with more travel and long hours at the office, that it was difficult to find time and finish the book.  

All of that seems trivial now, because by the end of the month he was gone. And all of those things that kept me from doing the thing that really mattered felt pointless. It was a shock. I never thought time would run out, but it had. When someone passes suddenly everyone says, “Live like you’re dying…etc”, but it wasn’t until it directly affected my life, until something was taken unexpectedly that I realized how important it is to stop waiting.

I waited too long to do something that was important, something that mattered to me. And now… the moment is gone and I can never have it back. It filled me with regret and a sense of urgency. In the short time I knew Michael, he taught me so much, but he taught me the greatest lesson in his death.

Don’t wait on the things that matter. Forget about the right time, about ducks in a row, about what’s in your way. When you stop to think about what’s really stopping you, the answer is usually YOU.  And why should you be an obstacle to your pursuit?

To my friend Michael Palmer: You were a world-class gentleman with a heart of gold. One of the best I've ever known or will ever know. You are truly missed.

For more information on Michael and his work, please visit http://www.michaelpalmerbooks.com  

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