John PAYTONWhen I was about 20 years old I spent a contemplative day with a friend who told me later that the entire day I’d said three words, “life, death, friend.”  Four decades later the significance of those words still sticks with me.  I shared them recently with the same friend who had just emerged from a coma after a serious bicycle accident and went through a remarkable recovery resuming his teaching.   I now add one word: family.  I think those four words pretty much sum up everything of importance, perhaps with “empathy” thrown in for good measure.  Just last week, another friend, John Payton, President of NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a giant in human rights law, died unexpectedly.  With many family and friends who have died this year, I stand on sacred ground reflecting about “life, death, friend, family and empathy.” Here’s a link to my most recent radio interview.  Share your thoughts in comments below.

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  • Senator Rodney Ellis April 4, 2012, 3:00 pm

    “Nadine, thanks for paying tribute to a wonderful man. The world may be a few steps back if it were not for trailblazers like John. It is ironic that, while we just lost the man who argued so persuasively and eloquently for the necessity of affirmative action policies in front of the United States Supreme Court in 2003, that very same court is poised to re-examine the virtues of those policies once again in 2012. It just goes to show that the struggle for justice goes on in this country and beyond. It is my sincere hope that the Supreme Court recognizes that the wisdom of John’s arguments endure.” – Sen. Rodney Ellis,

  • Aileen Ionescu-Somers April 10, 2012, 2:06 pm

    I add one more word: health. Being blessed with good health allows us to fully appreciate some of the other things you mentioned: friends, family, Unfortunately, it is often only when we lose it – or someone close does – that the other concepts of empathy and death take on more profound meaning and the importance of close friends and family is magnified.

  • Bob Dunfey April 11, 2012, 11:18 am

    I am fortunate to have learned when I was young from my parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents that one most fully appreciates and enjoys life through one’s relationships with family, friends and community and respect those relationships as one of the highest priorities.

  • Lynn Roseberry April 11, 2012, 8:22 pm

    4 words to live by.

  • marion chapsal (@MarionChapsal) April 17, 2012, 5:47 pm

    Eve Ensler has put us together this morning via Twitter. I was curious to know what a famous exec in residence at the prestigious IMD business school had to do with the vagina monologues…and I was not disappointed.
    Life, death, family, friends, the words you live by.
    Too few people talk about death in general and even fewer blog about it in business consulting blogs!
    I am touched by your words, by your hommage to your friend, who seemed to be a great humanist.
    Truly and sadly, it’s only when you lose it (presence,love, health, home, security, fresh,food air & water), that you realize how priceless and precious it was.
    If we lived each moment remembering that very simple truth, indeed, life would be much simple and fulfilled.
    It’s about developing awareness and presence. Presence to oneself connected with others. Being alert, fully alive and reaching for others.
    But then a new message pops up in our email box, our phone rings, we get distracted and run again, pretending to be seriously busy…
    On that, I am going to weed my garden before dinner…
    Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Nadine, I will certainly come back,

  • Anne Ravanona May 16, 2012, 4:58 pm

    A truly inspiring post and it really resonates with me. I lost my dear brother last year in tragic and traumatic circumstances and I can really say, that during that time of deep sorrow, trauma and pain, those 4 words were always present – Life, death, family, friends.

    Through my brother Paul’s death, I have become a stronger person, became much closer to my family, saw old friends and family I hadn’t seen for year, met many of Paul’s wonderful friends and found out more about my own friendships. Paul and the memory of him lives on now, through our friends and family and through the Association we created in his memory, to help other families of missing persons in Amsterdam.

    Thank you Nadine for your candid and thought-provoking blogpost.

  • Jean Olson January 10, 2013, 3:55 am

    Caregiver Support Group Wendy Gwinner, MSW, LCSW & Justin Short, MSW, MPh – This group is intended to allow family and friends time to talk about their experiences related to cancer and caregiving. This group is held at Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center, Conference Room. If you haven’t met with CSC’s Program Director, Justin Short, or BDH Cancer Center Oncology Social Worker, Wendy Gwinner prior to your first meeting, please call 582-1600 to set up an orientation appointment.


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