I almost didn’t stop to visit Sam.
“Too busy. No time. I’ll stop another time.”
But something made me pull off the highway.
Sam and his wife Doris lived next to me for over a decade.
After a snowstorm, I could always count on Sam to show up to plow my driveway.
And they could count on me to drop by with apple pie or gingerbread or whatever my grandmother had baked for Wednesday night dinners at her house.
Sam and I joked that I’m like the daughter he never knew he had… or wanted 🙂
Even after I moved in 2007, Sam and I stayed in touch.
A few years later Doris passed away and Sam relocated to a skilled care facility for veterans.
Here we are on one of our visits.
The Holyoke Soldier’s Home has seen a huge spike in people testing positive for COVID-19 – Sam was one.
In the past few weeks, a stunning 75 residents have died.
Sadly, this son of immigrant parents, World War II navy veteran, devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and my dear friend Sam Lococco was one.
Just weeks ago, we were all trekking along living our lives.
Then a global pandemic turned everyone’s world upside down in an instant.
For me, the upheaval began months earlier.
In November, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Eddie and my sister Debbie met in high school and he’s one of the nicest people I know.
In December, my world was once again rocked when one of my closest friends was also diagnosed with cancer.
I’ve known Pete since college when he and a couple of his pals from the UMass Lacrosse team moved into the apartment below. (Guys downstairs, “girls” upstairs.)
Like most young males Pete had a “healthy” appetite.
One that earned him the nickname What’s-to-Eat-Pete.
His most enduring nickname though was Pete-Dog.
(Also pictured here, Amy-Dog, Sue-Dog, Lynn-Dog, and a very young Val-Dog.)
In January, I attended a memorial service for a local woman named Deirdre.
We’d known each other for 30+ years and shared many mutual friends, but we didn’t hang out.
Still, Deidre’s death hit me hard.
Perhaps it was because we were the same age.
Or because she was robbed of her recent retirement from teaching high school science.
What We Say Vs. What We Do
What all life-changing events share in common is a sudden focus on priorities.
It could be the loss of a loved one…
It might be a serious illness or accident – or own or someone close to us…
Or the collective pain of a senseless mass shooting… the 911 attacks… or now COVID-19…
In these moments, we stop whatever crazy treadmill we’re on to remember what matters most.
We reflect on what we really want from life.
And for a few days anyway, social media is filled with reminders to live each day to the fullest.
Yet we rarely make any real or lasting changes.
Once the immediate shock and grief fade, most of us go back to the way things were. Busy as ever.
At least that’s been the case for me.
The last time a crisis moved me to make a significant life change was 27 years ago.
That’s when my mother died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. My mom was just 61 and five months from retirement.
It was the catalyst to my leaving my 90-mile-a-day commute to take a job at a smaller company closer to home.
A few months into the new job it hit me…
I didn’t need a new job. I didn’t even need a new career.
I needed a whole new life.
So in 1995, I started the Changing Course Newsletter to serve others looking to follow their own road.
I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished in the last 25 years.
But like everyone else, I’ve fallen into “too busy” mode.
Too busy to visit Sam as often as I could…
Too busy to exercise…
Too busy to do all sorts of things that matter far more than whatever I was doing at the time.
Maybe you’ve felt the same.
My friend Pete Berry turned 62 in May.
He retired from his job and threw himself into his real passion — making pottery.
Here he is at the Harvard Ceramics Studio where he also taught.
And here’s some of his beautiful handiwork in my dining room.
In December, we learned Pete’s cancer was incurable. He died March 9th.
Pete left this world surrounded by his wife Andy (also my college friend), his brother Steve, and our dear friend Sue-Dog on the hospice floor of a Boston hospital.
Then COVID-19 came roaring into our lives, and five days later Massachusetts hospitals were closed to visitors.
Losing my friend has been incredibly painful.
Yet I’m so grateful we were able to say our tearful goodbyes in person. Sadly, Sam’s family and so many others cannot.
In one of our last conversations, Peter said, “I’m too young to die, Val.”
He was right. And I still haven’t fully processed the fact that he’s gone.
What breaks my heart all the more is knowing that my incredibly funny, sensitive, gifted, and very dear friend left this world full of regrets about dreams deferred and unrealized potential…
I worry I will too.
That’s why I was so moved by Deirdre’s passing.
Her obituary began with “[she] died as she lived, on her own terms.”
Deirdre wanted to learn saxophone and play in bands, be a docent at the greenhouse at Smith College, paint, garden, learn about birds, local history, start a dog walking business, join a board for a non-profit, give service to a local aid organization. She did every one of these things and so much more.
In other words, Deirdre regretted nothing.
How many of us can say that?
What Will You Most Regret?
Barbara Bush once said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.”
For many of us, regrets include failing to act on our dreams.
What if you took a moment right now to write down the two or three things you’d most regret not doing…
- learning a language or how to play an instrument…
- opening a little shop
- getting your art into a gallery…
- running fly fishing expeditions…
- starting an online business…
- living and working on an island or in the heart of Paris or anywhere you like…
- running a coaching business out of an RV as you travel the country…
- writing a book…
- getting your photos published…
- living and working on your own terms…
Now more than ever, we need to inspire one another to do more than talk about our dreams, but to take steps to live as regret-free a life as possible.
So, what if you went one step further and actually named one small step you could take to move closer to your dream?
Finally, what if you took the really powerful step of publically declaring your intention?
When you do, it makes the dream real.
Sharing is also a way to hold ourselves accountable to follow through.
Scroll down now to share YOUR dream in the comments section.
Then forward the blog to a friend who can help hold your feet to the fire!
I Need Your Prayers
Not surprisingly, I’ve been re-evaluating my priorities as well.
In fact, I have a major announcement coming soon.
Until then though, please join me in praying in whatever form that takes for you.
Pray for those who’ve lost their lives and for those left behind.
Pray for those who are still fighting for their lives.
Pray for everyone in the medical and hospital community from the EMTs, to the doctors and nurses, to the low wage workers who clean the rooms, prepare the meals, work security…
Pray for the people who are driving our buses and trucks or who work at the grocery stores and in the warehouses.
Pray for everyone suffering financial hardships here in the US as well as those millions around the world who have no soap or running water.
And pray for the wisdom and courage to live your life without regrets.
Lastly, it would mean a lot to me and my family if you could send prayers and healing energy to my brother-in-law Eddie.
Thank you and stay safe!