It didn’t came on a piece of paper. It was more like a series of disjointed scenes from a movie reel lying on the floor, waiting to be clipped together. It didn’t come as a revelation; instead it came as itself: life.
Like many San Francisco days, it started out gray, wet and cold, enveloped in fog that makes you apprehensive. And like many California days, it ended in bright sunshine, and blue skies with warm wind that caresses the skin.
I started my uniquely American day at a Jewish Temple in Palo Alto, celebrating the life of my friends Saar and Patty’s baby boy. It ended with the memorial service of my friend Rajeev Motwani, a famed academic and venture investor, but most importantly a great human being, in a church on the Stanford University campus. It started with tears of joy and it ended with a quiet tear of sorrow.
And that’s just it — Friday turned out to be metaphor for life. If one event bookended the start of the journey, then the other simply highlighted the destination. And in the process it taught me that it is how we live that is really important.
Saar’s boy has his entire life ahead of him, just like a blank page, only to be filled by the ink of time. Rajeev’s life is like a great novel that has come to an end, filled with stories. I sat in the back of the church and heard a lot of Rajeev’s friends, family members and business colleagues tell stories about him at a heavily attended memorial service that included everyone from his current students to random strangers to two of his most famous students, Larry and Sergey. (Google has endowed a chair in Stanford’s computer science department in Rajeev’s name with a $2.5 million donation.)
Someone called him a great connector, others called him a brilliant mind. But to me, he was just a quiet, thoughtful, kind man, who spoke not with his words but with his actions. He communicated with a smile, and not with a frown. It was not who he was or what he did, but it was how he did it that will remain with me forever.
Of the many who spoke at the memorial, it was Lakshmi Pratury who put it best when she said (and I paraphrase) that in our life we spend too much time agonizing over things related to work, almost forgetting to celebrate and savor the little, countless moments of joy and happiness. And that’s what life is all about. She reminded us that Rajeev used to enjoy those countless moments. The little joys. Perhaps we should, too. (Share you memories about Rajeev at http://rememberingrajeev.com.)
Last night, when I had difficulty falling asleep after my long and emotional day, I decided to watch the season debut of “House.” In the episode, Dr. Greg House, my favorite malcontent (after me, obviously), when asked why he obsesses on failures so much, says, “Successes only last till someone screws them up; failures are forever.” I guess we’ve all thought about life in those terms. I know I did before my own brush with mortality.
Later in the same episode another character, Lydia, remarks: “Everything ends. Life ends. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the beginning.”
To Rajeev, good-bye till we meet again. To my friend Saar’s boy, welcome.
Photo Courtesy: The circle of life sculpture in Vigeland Park, Oslo by Quistnix via Flickr