"A Much Needed Moment.." on Labor Day
Everyone I spoke with on Friday asked what I was going to do this long, Labor Day Weekend. I had no plans. Little did I know I would spend three important hours watching coverage of Senator John McCain's funeral.
I have never voted for Senator or Presidential Candidate John McCain. Yesterday I voted to watch his historical memorial that included nearly every important name in politics over the past 30 years:
- former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama
- former Vice Presidents, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney and Al Gore
- former Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John Kerry and Bob Dole
There were also former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the first Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and former CIA Director Leon Panetta in attendance (not to mention any of the foreign dignitaries). The seating chart was designed for forced bipartisanship with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seated next to Speaker Paul Ryan and all former U.S Presidents seated shoulder to shoulder, separated only by their wives. The high ideals of love, bipartisanship, leadership, courage and freedom permeated every eulogy (in about that order, beginning with daughter Meghan McCain). I have come to deplore death, yet this funeral had my attention the moment I turned to CBS affiliate WUSA Channel 9. I think of my late father daily and there's nothing like a funeral to make me miss him more. When my father died, my emotional response was to live more intentionally. Maybe everyone feels this way after someone close to them dies but for me, that emotion manifest into running for office and then eventually, running the Jason Howell Company. My father taught me to love the ideals of politics and to admire entrepreneurship. Each category - both politics and entrepreneurship - speaks to the unlimited potential of individuals who choose to achieve something great. It's a greatness I aspire to and it is a greatness I hope to inspire and support in each one of my client families.
For all of the debate around equality, there is nothing more equalizing than death. I am certain that we grieve so passionately for those close to us who have died; in part because we will miss them, and in part because we don't know where they went. And also because we know that we all will one day come to the same mysterious fate. Many of us have long held beliefs about death but by definition a "belief" is an opinion considered to be true; not a fact. We have beliefs about where our loved ones "go" after life, but unfortunately we don't really know. As my dad used to say, and I'll paraphrase, God let us know about the mystery of life but death he kept death to himself.
Life is all we know and all we have. I believe financial planning is really life planning. This belief is why I am so passionate about the work I do and the value it brings to clients. After all I used to be a corporate accountant but I couldn't continue to focus on numbers that too indirectly measured the lives of the consumers and employees of firms they were created to support. There is a joy in personal financial planning, not just for me but for the clients I serve. The joy is in the freedom it affords, the peace it promises and the discipline it creates. Even just the discipline of intentional attention - attention to the tools that create opportunity in financial life - is a reward unto itself. And those opportunities that financial discipline creates are the gifts we offer our family, our country, our world and the next generation.
We all have so much to offer. Every funeral I've attended and watched has been rightfully so kind to the one who has died. It is a beautiful custom of funerals, to speak well of the dead and a tradition I hope we never lose as people. And I hope when we die, that we exist on some other plane, conscious enough to hear the nice things people say about us after we're gone. John McCain lived a colorful, patriotic life; worthy of celebration and the kind things said at his funeral. He made much of his opportunity called "living," despite...everything.
More than just a former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger was a Jewish refugee from the era of Nazi Germany in the late 1930's. He fled to the United States with family and became a prominent figure in multiple Presidential administrations and US politics in general. At McCain's funeral, he finely expressed the overwhelming sentiment that Senator McCain's death provided "..a much needed moment of unity." We have many differences in life but in death, we are all the same. It is in these "moments" we can reflect upon this sameness. When someone we care about dies, we finally slow down. My closest aunt recently died and when I heard the news I stared out the window. I have the view of a busy main road called Gallows in Vienna, Virginia. I wondered where all of those people were driving and why they were driving so fast. The world doesn't slow down when someone we care about dies - that's a tired myth - we do.
For a moment, we slow down.
There is perhaps one difference between us and the likes of a John McCain funeral: not all of us have politicians as colleagues who double as professional, eloquent speakers. But aside from our friend's oratory skills, we all die and hope that our lives mattered to a few people along the way. I hope you are living your best life, making the most of your opportunity to create, to give; to love and be loved.
And if finances are holding you back, give me a call.
PS. As far as eloquent (and powerful) speeches go, the funeral could have ended after Meghan's eulogy. Be moved:
Jason Howell is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and former U.S. Congressional candidate who became a financial planner out of concern for the economic future of Generation X. He is President of Jason Howell Company: an independent, fiduciary, wealth management firm that specializes in planning for the long term financial health of Gen X parents and their children.
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