Four years ago, my twin brother Shola and I traveled from California to our home state of Massachusetts for the memorial service of our childhood friend who passed away due to cancer. Although less than 1% of my readers know Wade McDowell personally, it doesn’t change the fact that he can teach all of us a few things about how to live our best lives.
LESSON #1 – Smile often. If someone asked me what the first thing is that I think about when I hear Wade’s name, it would be his infectious smile. The dude was always smiling. If you spent time with him, you’d probably think that he never endured a bad day in his life. He smiled around friends, family members, strangers, and even people he was destroying on the basketball courts of Western Massachusetts. I gotta admit, I didn’t smile much immediately after he passed away. I became pissed when I thought about how the universe could be so cruel to take the life of one of the nicest and devoted family men you’d ever come across.
Then at the memorial service, it hit me.
I know this comes straight out of the book of cliches, but Wade would not want me to be angry. If he saw me moping around, he’d put his arm around me and say, “Come on, man. It’s OK. I’m in a good place now. I need you to be too.” And when I wiped away my tears and looked up at him, I know he would be smiling.
To all of you, please take the time to smile more. Smile at your kids, your spouse, your friends, your coworkers, your mailman, the checkout clerk at the supermarket, even strangers.
I know what some of you are thinking: “I don’t smile at strangers because (insert lame excuse here).” Fine. Just know that there were people at Wade’s memorial service who did not know him very well, but came to pay their respects primarily due to seeing his smile. While working as a correctional officer at a prison, hardened criminals respected Wade and were saddened by his passing.
Let that marinate for a minute.
A smile can positively impact the lives of others and it takes ridiculously minimal effort.
As Wade traded punches with cancer, he still smiled for everyone he came across, even when it became difficult for him to do so.
He impacted countless people with his smile (including you, I bet).
How many people will you positively impact with yours?
LESSON #2 – Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve mentioned this a million times, and I’ll keep banging the drum here like my daughter bangs her toy bongos. Do you want to know why Wade smiled so much? Because the guy refused to wallow in the mud of meaningless shit. Take a moment to think about some of the meaningless shit you may have given attention to recently:
- Little Johnny ran a crayon across your wall
- You encountered a bunch of haters talking smack about you
- Your coworkers didn’t invite you out to lunch with them last week
- You’re busting your ass to write a blog, but nobody reads it
- Your favorite sports team is on a three game losing streak
- The lady at your favorite deli put relish on your sandwich, when you clearly stated that you didn’t want it
- You’re the administrator of a Facebook group and you had a bunch of people “unlike” your page
- You got a flat tire yesterday
- You got wasted at Thanksgiving and made a fool out of yourself
- Your boss yelled at you
You know what all of these things have in common? In six months from now, none of the aforementioned will matter.
Wade practiced and mastered the “Six Month Rule,” and that’s a major reason why he led such a happy life.
Wade was a guy who brushed off the small stuff as if it was a mosquito and kept moving forward. I will always respect him for that.
So as I’ve said before, when you see yourself getting pissed off over something, take a step back and ask yourself, “Does this really matter?” If you determine that the answer is “no,” then you need to do whatever it takes to get over it. Quickly.
This doesn’t mean that Wade wasn’t a passionate guy, because he absolutely was. As a matter of fact, his passion leads me to my next point.
LESSON #3 – Go Hard: On the cover of the memorial program, there was a quote from Wade that described his relationship with his wife, Kim: “We love hard, we fight hard, but all that matters in the end is that we love each other.”
Quoted for truth.
Let me break this down: Wade and Kim had some epic arguments during their 16 year marriage. Hell, I witnessed a few of them in person, and they were not pretty.
And you know what? That’s awesome.
I feel the need to chuckle whenever I see couples who boast, “Oh, we never argue!” Anyone who says that probably is lacking in the passion and conviction departments – or they choose to suffer in silence. If you believe strongly in many things, there’s a good chance that you’re going to disagree with your spouse when it comes to them. That’s OK. Embrace it and understand that it is all a part of the evolution process.
On the flip side, Wade and Kim loved passionately too. They traveled together, they danced together, they played together, they hugged and kissed each other constantly, they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, and they
were are completely in love.
Are you in a relationship where you take care of the kids, put them to bed, and then you surf Facebook while your spouse watches TV and no words are exchanged? Do you turn on your computer more often than you turn on your spouse or vice versa?
If so, pump the brakes because you will end up at the point of no return. Do whatever it takes to save your relationship or get out. Period. Being comfortable is the mortal enemy of healthy and happy relationships. The way Kim and Wade demonstrated love is the way love should be demonstrated: passionately.
LESSON 4 – Be a good role model. Wade and Kim have a lovely and smart daughter named Kaley. Since I live in California now, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing her become the beautiful young lady she is today. I fondly remember the old days when Kim would bring Kaley to the park when she was a toddler while we played basketball. Between games, Wade would run over to Kim and Kaley to give them kisses and tell them how much he loved them.
During the memorial ceremony, an extremely courageous Kaley took the stage in front of hundreds of people to offer some of her fondest memories of her dad. For as long as I’m alive, I’ll never forget these words:
“I love my dad. He was my world. When I get married I want to find a man who will love me like my dad loved my mom. I never see love like that anywhere else, but I know it exists because I witnessed it everyday.”
I had a pretty good grip on my emotions until that point, but then the floodgates opened. Kaley watched me play basketball when she was my youngest daughter’s current age.
What about you?
Will your kids say that you and your spouse set the Gold Standard when it comes to how love should be demonstrated? Or will they look to some Hollywood couple as their love role models? These are the questions I wonder about when it comes to my two daughters.
We may think our kids never listen to us, but they are always listening and always observing. Be the person you want your kids to be, and then challenge them to be better. Wade did that with his one and only child, and he epitomized what being a Daddy Doin’ Work is all about.
LESSON 5 – Don’t wait to reconnect. Kaley wasn’t done. Also during her speech she said that many people in her parents’ High School class moved away from Massachusetts after they graduated (like me). She openly asked, “There is so much love in this room right now. But why does it take something bad to happen for people to get together?”
I still don’t have an answer, but this amazing young lady made me reflect on how I go about things.
All of us have old friends that we love. They could be from High School, college, an old job, a previous city you resided in, etc. but you spend time wondering, “How is he/she doing?” You may lurk on that person’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, but you never do much more than that.
I challenge you to do better.
If there’s an old friend who’s on your mind, take a moment to pick up the phone and call that person this week. Don’t send an email and don’t post two sentences on the person’s Facebook wall – do what we would’ve done when we were kids, namely, have a conversation with that person (I know it’s antiquated, but give it a try). If you live in the general vicinity of that individual, set some time aside to meet for lunch and/or coffee.
Did you have a nasty argument with a childhood friend and you lost touch because of it? Put your big kid pants on, pick up your phone, and make amends. Life is too short to hold silly grudges over some bullshit.
I love my childhood friends. After Wade’s memorial service, over 30 of Kim and Wade’s closest friends and family spent time at their house, listened to Michael Jackson’s epic Off The Wall album, shared old stories, and laughed like I never laughed in years. Yes, it’s possible to have times like this with new friends, but there is something special about being around people who’ve known you ever since you were a kid.
Old friends know your weaknesses/shortcomings and accept them.
Old friends have your back whenever new people talk smack about you.
Old friends know exactly what it takes to make you laugh.
Old friends keep you humble.
Old friends love you unconditionally.
Old friends aren’t really friends. They’re family.
Marriage, kids, jobs, moving away, etc. always get in the way of staying close with childhood friends, and I’m here to say don’t let that happen. The time you spend watching television can be spent talking to an old friend. I promise that you’ll feel pretty awesome after doing so.
Even during a really sad day, I can’t remember feeling as good as I did when I was hanging out with my childhood friends that weekend in 2012. I’ve made a point to be more active in their lives, and I hope you do the same with your childhood friends as well.
LESSON 6 – Love the crust. Speaking of hanging out with Kim and our old friends on Saturday night, she said something extremely funny but also incredibly deep.
“Remember one of Chris Rock’s old comedy routines? He said, ‘When you love someone, you gotta love everything about them. You gotta love the CRUST of a motherfucker! You can’t love just the white part of the bread! You gotta love the crust and the tiny crumbs at the bottom of the toaster.’ That’s how I felt about Wade. I loved the crust of that man, and he loved my crust too.”
Again, quoted for truth.
You have crust, I have crust, we ALL have crust. When you see an attractive celebrity on television, or that perfect mom or dad in your neighborhood, you better believe that he or she has crust too.
So here’s the question – do you love your spouse’s crust? Do you simply tolerate it? Or do you just hate it?
Stop complaining about the crust of your spouse. If he or she died today, you’d miss the hell out of it, trust me. Love everything about your spouse, including the crusty parts.
LESSON 7 – Own your bombness. During the Saturday night gathering, Kim mentioned how she and Wade always “owned their bombness” as a couple. When they were together, they were absolutely stunning. You honestly won’t find a better looking couple who’s not on television or in movies. On top of that, they’re funny, loving, smart, kind, and hard-working.
You don’t have to be the Prime Minister of Douchebagistan to own your bombness. Owning your bombness isn’t, “Hey everybody! Look how great I am!” As a matter of fact, it’s the complete opposite. If you’re really good at something, you never have to say a word about it. People will just know.
It’s a simple concept – if someone compliments you, own it. Don’t say, “Thanks, but…” or offer contrary evidence. OWN THAT SHIT.
If someone compliments your kids for being well-behaved, own it. They’re well-behaved because you raised them to be that way.
If someone compliments you for being funny, own it. Do you know how many un-funny people are out there? Just refer to your recent Thanksgiving dinner. We all know how much it sucks to be around those people, but can you imagine how much it sucks to actually be them? Luckily that isn’t a problem for you.
If someone compliments you for being beautiful or handsome (in a non-creepy way, of course), own it. It’s because you work out, eat well, have good posture, have a killer smile that can warm the coldest heart, have an ass that looks damn good in a pair of tight jeans, have a square jaw, have soul-piercing eyes, look great in a bathing suit or business suit, won the genetic lottery, or a combination of the aforementioned. The bottom line is it’s because of you.
If someone compliments you for being kind and generous, own it. It’s because you have a heart of gold and you put the needs of others before your own. Celebrate that. The world needs more people like you.
Wade and Kim are proud of the years they spent together, they’re proud of the type of parents they are to Kaley, they’re proud of their educations, and they’re proud of being role-models for the way life should be lived.
Even after Wade’s passing, Kim still owns their collective bombness.
Do you own yours?
Tick, tick, tick…BOOM.
LESSON 8 – The power of being a GAD. Just so you know, a GAD is a Good-Ass Dude, and Wade was a Good-Ass Dude. Everybody loved him and our community rallied around him as he embarked on the battle of his life. Just to give you an idea of how much Wade was loved, well over 700 people attended his memorial service. It was a cold and rainy day, but people would not be denied. They had to be there. Childhood friends, new friends, white people, black people, Republicans, Democrats, teachers, classmates, basketball coaches, basketball teammates, basketball opponents, and people from literally all over the country dropped everything to be there to pay their respects to this great man.
That’s what happens when you’re a GAD.
When it’s your time to die, how will you be remembered?
Will there be the outpouring of love for you that there was for Wade? Will people gladly travel 3,000 miles to attend your memorial service? Will people have nothing but nice things to say about you? Will your kids say that you are the best role-model they could ever ask for? Will your spouse say that he or she is the luckiest human being in the world to be married to such a loving person for so long?
That’s what happens when you’re a Good-Ass Dude (or a Good-Ass Woman).
If you’re not one, be one.
If you are one, carry on.
LESSON 9 – Don’t quit. Wade was a fighter. I wasn’t by his bedside when he was going through chemotherapy, but I was in constant communication with Kim. You have to understand something about my dear friend Kim – she was in the process of getting her Masters degree when Wade was diagnosed in Spring 2012. Kim spoke to Wade and told him that she was going to drop out of school to take care of him. He looked her in the eye and said, “You better not quit. You’re going to get that degree.”
You know what’s hard? Driving hundreds of miles back and forth from Massachusetts to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Philadelphia to take care of the only man she ever loved, being a mom to a teenager, pursuing a Masters degree, and not having a nervous breakdown in the process.
And guess what?
Kim got that degree – because Wade refused to let her quit.
How many times have you gotten off of the treadmill? Don’t feel bad if your number is high, because I’m sure my number is higher. I spent a good chunk of my life as a quitter. Quite honestly, I was a lazy sack of shit until about ten years ago.
Living in Los Angeles taught me something: the most successful people in this town (and anywhere else, for that matter), aren’t the prettiest, they aren’t the smartest, they aren’t the most well connected, they aren’t the richest, and they aren’t the funniest.
They are simply the people who refuse to quit.
There are plenty of people out there who are smarter than me, funnier than me, more inspirational than me, have more social media followers than me, etc. – but good luck to any of them if they think they can outwork me. It will never happen. Hell, “work” is in my nickname.
My dear friend died on the proverbial treadmill on November 27, 2012 because he refused to get off.
I’m absolutely willing to die on that treadmill when it comes to my family and the causes I believe in.
What about you?
LESSON 10 – Treasure old memories. As I type this final lesson, the tears are flowing down my face. However, they’re not flowing due to sadness. They’re flowing because I’m so blessed to have a friend like Wade in my life. We went to school together, we played ball together, we got in trouble together, we had sleepovers together, we cried together, we laughed together, and we grew up together. When we talked over the phone after he was diagnosed, he said that he thought of me as a brother, not a friend. I will always remember and cherish that.
Cancer may have taken his body from this earth, but that’s all this horrible disease can take. It can’t take away our memories and the fun we had together.
At the beginning of this post, I said that probably less than 1% of my readers knew Wade personally. Now I can confidently say that 100% of you now know Wade personally.
I bet you want to give him a hug, I bet you want to see his glowing smile, I bet you want to say “Thank you” for inspiring you as much as he inspires me everyday.
I titled this post Life After Death, because I know my life will be vastly improved after Wade’s passing. That’s not to say that I don’t miss him terribly, because I do – it’s because I know that he would want all of the lives he touched to be better afterwards. That’s why I introduced him to you today.
If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your life, will you choose to make it better?
The choice is yours.
I promise you that Wade will be smiling if you make the right decision.
Rest In Peace, Wade Anthony McDowell, Jr.
Husband, Daddy Doin’ Work, brother, and friend.
May 6, 1975 – November 27, 2012