In the past few years—probably since turning 40—I’ve decided the meaning of my life is the connections I make with other humans. I want to be sure I make a positive impact on others, whether I make a friend for a reason, a season or a lifetime, as they say. COVID only underscored this feeling more deeply.
In June my husband Bart and I went on a trip that was the very definition of this mantra for me. We traveled to New Jersey to celebrate the life of Dan Burke, retrofit’s sales extraordinaire who unexpectedly passed in December 2020. (Read more about Dan in my January-February “Point of View”, page 12.) Dan had invited me to visit his home on the Jersey Shore many times, but I never made it a priority and then it was too late. I felt I owed it to Dan to make this trip. Dan’s friends were as wonderful as he was and so welcoming to Bart and me. In fact, I felt as though I had known many of them for years. We also met one of Dan’s brothers, and his mannerisms and storytelling trait reminded me so much of Dan. It was almost like Dan was with us. And then there were the unexplained phenomena …
Our first day on the Jersey Shore, Bart and I took three Lyft rides. In each one, the Lyft GPS failed. One driver decided to use his personal cell phone to navigate to our destination but its battery suddenly died. I had to use my cell phone to direct our drivers in all three rides. Bart asked two of the drivers if Lyft was having trouble with its system. Both drivers said it had only occurred when we got into their cars. They had each dropped off passengers just before us and hadn’t had an issue with their Lyft-provided GPS.
In addition to several eerie technology-related occurrences, there were strangers who inexplicably showed up just when we needed them. My husband is not the most patient flier so after experiencing several flight delays on our way to New Jersey, he was a bit growly and adamant we were never flying this particular airline again. Soon after arriving, we struck up a conversation with a gentleman who had just retired from said airline after 35 years. He explained to Bart what occurred with our delays, making my husband much less angry at the airline (and saving the early hours of our trip!).
On our way home, we literally ran to our connection at O’Hare and I told my husband there was no way our checked bag made it onto the plane. When we arrived in Omaha, our bag was one of the first to appear on the carousel. Bart and I looked at each other, and I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Thank you, sweet baby Jesus!” (one of Dan’s catchphrases that will stay with me forever).
Maybe these moments were coincidences, but what really matters is that I felt Dan with us, as though he was making sure we were comfortable and having a good time in the place he so dearly loved. Now that we’re home, the memories of our trip and Dan’s wonderful friends will last a lifetime. Not only did I witness the impact Dan made on others in his life and how dearly missed he is, but I also saw what a positive impact you can make on someone, even when meeting them for a few moments, as in the case of the airline retiree.
After COVID separated all of us from each other, I cannot think of a better way to lead my life than to be a positive influence on others whether in the short or long term.