By John Lyons, PhD

In 2019, I became an orphan.  Unlike many of the young people with whom we work, I was privileged to have at least one of my parents in my life for 63 years.  But regardless of our age, losing both parents is a profound experience.   My father passed on December 2nd of 2019.   He was 92 years old.  He truly lived the American dream.   He was the son of a migrant worker who moved from town to town to find day work during the depression.   As a teenager, he settled in Indianapolis but then his father left the family, and he was raised by a single mother in the late 30s and early 40s.   She was quite ahead of her time, creating and building her own business to support her two sons.   After serving in the Navy at the end of WWII, my father received a civil engineering degree and took a job at the Indianapolis Water Company where he stayed for 42 years until he retired as the Executive Vice President.   Although my father accomplished much in his work what strikes me as most profound about his life is that he played golf with the same foursome for 54 years.   He played poker monthly with the same group of friends for 62 years. 

Sixty-eight years ago, my father married my mother.  She hadn’t gone to college and quickly shifted from working as a secretary to becoming a mother and homemaker, a role she cherished until she was 60 and lost her own mother.   To help her with this loss, my father built her a ‘dream house’ in a different town in the middle of a wooded ravine.    My mother had many friends in the town they had lived while we, their children, grew up (Speedway) and on moving my father challenged my mother that she might not like their new town (Zionsville) so much because she wouldn’t know anyone.   Not one to ever back down from a challenge, my mother went out and got a job writing a column for a local newspaper that required her to interview longtime residents.   Before she retired at 84 she had published 1100 newspaper articles about the people of Zionsville and published five books and had been named the Zionsville Town Crier.  Everyone in town knew her. And she knew everyone in town.

So, what do I take from these two stories?   Relationships are treasures.  No matter what our accomplishments nor our accumulation of things, what is truly important in our lives are all the other people that share our lives with us.    Cherish your relationships.   Invest in your relationships.  Be generous in your relationships.    That is our true measure of worth.   

Relationships are one of the key ingredients to a successful implementation of the principles of TCOM.  The ability to make and maintain relationship is fundamental to successful and sustained collaboration.  Perhaps we have not yet talked enough about this aspect of our work.

7 Responses

  1. John, heartfelt condolences to you and your family for your loss. You sentiments are so beautiful and relatable. I am honored to have you share these thoughts with us. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of relationships. Take care and thank you so much for the reminder.

  2. I lost my father in September just a few weeks before TCOM and though I am not yet an orphan, as you so eloquently put it John, I am reminded daily by the loss of my father, a son and a step-son how deeply relationships weave together the fabric of our lives. Relationships are what bring the loose fragments home and tie them together in a beautiful pattern that is unique to each of us. It reminds me that one can feel completely lonely in a room full of people without the connection of relationship. I’m sure we have all been there a time or two in our lives. I hope the memories of your wonderful parents stitch themselves to your heart and you can find joy in the wonderful pattern they left behind in you.

  3. John
    We share in the sorrow of your loss, and hope you find more comfort in the days to come. Thank you for gifting us in this community the opportunity to be “with you” in this. Healing energy to you and your kin.

  4. Thank you for sharing this personal remembrance of your parents John and I am deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you also for using this as an opportunity to relate it to the work we do. What resonated most with me is your statement about becoming an orphan. I felt this in August 2016 when I lost my father, having lost my mother in 2000. It forever changes how you approach relationships I think. I now even more so make sure to tell the people that are important to me that they are and I don’t spend as much time worrying about things that just don’t seem as important to me anymore. It can help us to focus on what is important in our relationships because we know the very real circumstance that a person is not always going to be there so we should tell them how we feel now. In the spirit of cherishing relationships I want to say I am thankful for knowing you and the supportive community you have built and that you and your team continue to offer opportunities for us to both learn from and help each other.

  5. John, I am sorry for your loss and grateful for your willingness to share this part of your life with this community. I am inspired by your comments as I have been by the example you have set in my interactions with you over the last few years. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Thanks for introducing us to your parents by honoring them in this way.

  6. Thank you John for sharing your story with us! It reminds us all that relationships are the essence of human existence and that we ALL need them.

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