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Feb 19, 2013

The Billboard

Today I received inspiration at a most unexpected place – a funeral.
Last Wednesday, Kristina’s employer, the founder of Mason and Moon Advertising Agency suddenly, quite unexpectedly, suffered a massive heart attack and died. It was a shock. My wife had a casual conversation with him just hours before. Then over dinner, we get the dreadful phone call that saddened us both.
I didn’t work for him; so obviously, I didn’t know Sammy Moon as well as my wife knew him. I only met him a few times. Yet he was one of those amazingly congenial fellows you just couldn’t help but like. I can’t explain it, but I hope everyone has had the opportunity to know someone like Sammy because then this statement makes sense without having a good explanation.
Kristina recounted how he would come and sit with her while she waited for me to arrive on the days we drove together. She told me of his consistent and pleasant salutation of “Hello, Friend!” and how she will still hear his voice say those words in her office even though he is not there.
The public service today was crowded, and the best of what one could hope for from a funeral. Sammy was well known and well liked – again, what one hopes for at a funeral. The opposite makes for very awkward circumstances.
I learned a lot about Sammy today, which made me wish I had known him better. I learned about his personal history, his career start as a radio disk jockey and many details about his family and friends. I particularly enjoyed the story of how he would frequently jest with his team that the phrase “Sammy Moon is a great guy” should be worked into the advertisement somewhere. There were other stories of his compassion and generosity, stories of how he cherished character above profit. However, the specifics of these accounts were not what drew me to the disappointment that I had not known him better.
As I listened to the stories and personal anecdotes, I felt the amazing character and compassion of who Sammy was. I had a momentary flash-forward to my own funeral, as morbid as that thought may be. I questioned who would attend, what they would say about me, how they would really remember my life. Would my funeral be filled with people who were saddened but happy to have known me, like those here celebrating Sammy’s life? Or would I be that aforementioned awkward circumstance where people show up out of obligation, read a historical account and then quickly left for the food at the reception?
Facing one’s own mortality is not a charming way to spend even a short moment. However, it was an important and inspirational moment nonetheless. As I listened, I realized there was a positive spirit about Sammy, gentle and strong, which permitted him to succeed with his business, his social life, his family, his marriage and his spiritual walk.
I heard him described as a soaring eagle and a natural leader. However, listening closer, I recognized Sammy trained himself constantly and kept himself on guard to stay positive and upbeat. A phrase repeated today was one of his favorites: “Take charge of your attitude and don’t let someone else choose it for you.” By the end of the service, I came to grasp that Sammy was not such an incredible and likable guy because it came naturally to him. He was incredible and likable because he chose to be – and worked hard to maintain his attitude.
I, on the other hand, have recently been a leaf in the wind when it comes to my emotional fortitude and positive attitude. I knew I needed to get a better grip on this or I would be that awkward service at my own funeral. As I sat there, I began to make a list of things I could do to improve myself, personal disciplines I could instill – how I could be more like Sammy. I wish I had known him better so I could have learned from him. And then there was a moment of irony as I realized that this man was teaching me lessons – even though I didn’t personally know him well. I could learn from his example even after Sammy passed this Earth.
I don’t want to have my funeral any time soon. I’m sure Sammy didn’t really want his either. I suppose that timing is not one we get to choose. However, whenever it does come, I want my life to be filled with people, family and loved ones that remember me as those who applauded Sammy’s life today. For that to happen, I must examine my values, set personal habits and constantly strive to be a great guy like Sammy.
And there is no doubt about Sammy. I read proof of it on my drive home. It left no doubt I want to aspire to be like him.
Someone heard that story today. I don’t know who, but someone who loved Sammy, someone who cherished character above profit, and someone who wanted to honor him with a fun-loving spirit he certainly would have appreciated. For on my drive home today, a mere seven hours after the funeral, I saw in two different locations on one of those new electronic billboards a message honoring this man.
With his picture on one side, the message to the left of it simply said, “Sammy Moon is a great guy.”

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