Reflections on the Way Home After Visiting a Dying Friend

We’re returning to Pennsylvania after visiting my friend Cy. He’s dying. You can’t predict these things but it’s a matter of weeks, not months. I’m glad we made the trip.

Cy is clear as ever, but he gasps for air after five or six words. I didn’t ask him for any final insights into life but we talked for about three hours.

I met him when my hair and beard were brown. He’s lived by faith and character all that time. Any questions about the meaning of life or facing death seemed ridiculous. But I can’t help reflecting on the frailty and brevity of life as my wife drives us home. His frailty and ours.

Two of life’s great questions are; who are you helping, and who is helping you.

3 factors determine potential:

  1. Personal talent, aspiration, and resolve.
  2. Circumstances and opportunities. Being born in the US provides more opportunities than being born in the jungles of Brazil.
  3. Relationships that include helping.  

The length of our step and the height of our reach depends on our ability to give and receive help.


Leadership is bounded by the people you help and the people who help you.

Choose your helpers carefully. But what ever you do, choose many. Emulate their character and tolerate their frailties. Choose relationships with people who challenge more than comfort.

Cy’s strength calls out strength in me.

The illusion of self-sufficiency limits potential and squanders opportunity.


  1. Mould who both become.
  2. Contribute to how far both go.
  3. Expand capacity and strengthen resolve on both sides.

Everyone depends on others. Respect dependence or you’re doomed to contribute less.

Toward the end of our visit, Cy said, “I didn’t want you to make such a long trip just to see me.” Then with mischief he said, “But I’m worth it.” I didn’t need to reply.

I visited Cy because he matters to me. But I also made the trip because I matter to him.

How might you acknowledge the people who are helping you?

Who needs your help today?