By Doug Mell
For the Chippewa Valley Post
This is a memorial I wrote recently upon learning of the death recently of a good friend, bon vivant, thoughtful and caring journalist, and a great husband and father.
Brian Leaf graduated from UW-Eau Claire in the early 1980s and went on to a long newspaper career in Wausau, Madison and, finally, Rockford, IL. I met Brian when he was a student employee at the Leader-Telegram in 1980 and I was just starting my own newspaper career.
We later would work for three years together at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison before he married and moved to Rockford. Brian died way too early at 57 while leading a spin class at the Rockford YMCA.
As his daughter Sally said at his over-flow memorial service on Sunday, Brian died because his heart was just too darn big. Much more on Brian is available in this very nice Rockford Register Star piece: http://www.rrstar.com/news/20170222/longtime-rockford-register-star-journalist-brian-leaf-dies
Brian’s death hit me hard; he was a real good guy who lived life to the fullest, and his passing left a big void in all who knew him. So I sat down the other day and started thinking about what I could learn from the way Brian lived his life and what his death possibly could teach me. This is what I came up with:
For Brian, today
I will not listen to music that sucks, pay attention to people who suck or waste my time on things that suck.
I will appreciate whatever nature dishes out — rain, sun or snow — and I will spend as much time as possible soaking it all in.
I will not, for even a second, take my family for granted or think that what I have with them will last forever — because it might not.
I will treat every friend and family member like they are the only one I have, cherishing every second with them and making sure they know how important they are in my life.
I will not take myself too seriously.
I will be eternally grateful for everything my God has given me, for reasons I will never fathom or fully appreciate.
I will not measure my worth, or anyone’s, by what is sitting in the driveway or in the bank account.
I will remember where I came from, who traveled along with me, and never, ever forget that life is about the journey and not the destination.
I will not go one day without a good laugh, a good cry and a good hug (borrowed from Jim Valvano’s famous ESPY Awards speech).
I will retain an insatiable curiosity about our magnificent world and always wonder what is around the next corner.
I will not waste my precious time worrying about what could happen tomorrow or six months from now — or regretting something stupid I did yesterday.
And, most importantly, I will treat every day, every single damn day, like it might be my last and leave it all on the field.
(Doug Mell is a former newspaper reporter and editor who now works as Executive Director of University Communications and External Relations at UW-Stout. He lives in Eau Claire.)