(originally published March 14th, 2006)

Last Friday, I got home from a consulting assignment, only to learn from a phone message that the father of one of my good friend’s had passed away. This friend is a few years younger than me, but the lives our fathers lead, and parts of the lives we each led, could have made us brother and sister, which would have been a major event since we’re both only children. I knew her father, and he was never nothing but overly nice to me, as another child of a military father. He thought I was one of the smartest people he’d ever met; I tried to never let him think otherwise.

Duty, Honor, Country
Roger Smith via Compfight

I got to the wake, signed the book, then realized that the casket was open. I wasn’t prepared for that, and I immediately thought back to my dad’s wake, when I didn’t want the casket open but it remained so throughout the evening. I was thrown off, and I pretty much lost my composure. I had to sit down for a long time, and one friend, then the friend whose father it was, came to me and offered some encouragement. I just kept sitting there, working on regaining my composure, but I was losing the battle.

I finally got up and walked around a bit, then went outside into the cool air to think and breathe; amazing how stuffy it can get when you’re under stress. I tried to call my wife, but she wasn’t around; neither was my mother or another friend of mine. In this moment I felt totally alone.

Then I thought about something. The biggest thing my dad instilled in me, the thing my wife sometimes picks on me about but I figure deep inside she admires, is my sense of honor, of doing the right thing. And I realized that this wasn’t really about me or my feelings at the moment; it was about honoring this man and his family and giving him a tribute, in my own way, for the sacrifice he gave to his country, and for fathering and being a great parent to a very good friend of mine.

I pulled myself together, went back inside, stood in line waiting my turn to get to the front and greeting the entire family. Though I really couldn’t look at the casket, I did make it to the front, offered my condolences to the family, and then turned the opposite way so I didn’t have to see the body and made my way out, after talking to a few other friends.

Sometimes we have to think about what the right thing is about in life and then going through with it, even if it offers challenges to our psyche. Sometimes we have to think about doing the right thing, even if it’s not going to benefit you that much in the long run. I guess that’s a part of wanting to be a good leader; it’s not always about you, is it?