One day early this month, Mike Cameron, an author and speaker friend in Canada, sat on the couch talking with his girlfriend, Colleen.
At dinner that night they’d been discussing an interview Mike had just done with my buddy and Go-Giver coauthor Bob Burg. Now, sitting at home on the couch, they sat together, reading; the book in Colleen’s hands was The Go-Giver.
One of the core concepts of the book is that the “secret” to success, on any and all levels, lies in living with a focus on giving, that is, on adding value to other people’s lives.
At one point Colleen stopped reading, looked up at Mike, leaned in for a kiss, and then said, “Hey. I have a tip for you on adding value.”
“Oh, yeah?” replied Mike.
“Yeah,” she said. “When you think I look pretty, you should tell me.”
What a great idea. How simple. How easy to overlook, to forget, to misplace. Yet it doesn’t take money, it doesn’t take advance notice or scheduling through Google Calendars. It takes hardly any time, and no effort at all.
I do this every day. Multiple times. I tell my wife how lovely she is — because it’s true, and because the truth of it is sitting there right in front of me. What a good idea to simply say so. She does it too.
I think I learned this from my father, who never ceased to let us all know just how much he loved us, and my mother, who was fiercely devoted to her children and didn’t hide that love-driven fierceness under any bushel. I re-learn it every day from our intrepid six-pound poodle Ben, who tells us both how much he loves us a hundred times a day.
When Colleen said what she said it was easy for Mike to respond, because he always thought she was pretty. Gorgeous, in fact.
They sat for a bit, talking about how easy it is to take such things for granted.
The idea that The Go-Giver could play a part in sparking a conversation like that is something for which I will forever be grateful, and so is Mike.
It was the last conversation they had.
The next morning Colleen awoke with the alarm clock, dressed for yoga, gave Mike a kiss, and was gone. Later that morning the unthinkable happened: Colleen was shot and killed, in an apparent murder-suicide at the hands of an estranged ex-boyfriend.
Colleen was an artist and exuberant lover of the moment. She loved to rock climb, to work out, to do yoga, to jump out of airplanes, to create, to paint, shoot photos and video, to create. She and Mike were in the midst of creating a series of “Artspirations” combining his words with her images. Here are two:
As I said, Ana and I go out of our way every day to tell each other what we see, what we feel, what we love about each other, what we love about our life together, what we love about the day and the moment.
We don’t expect to be murdered tomorrow. (Who ever does?) But, hey. There is violence and tragedy afoot in the world. A meteor could hit. The world could come to an end.
And really, the world does come to an end, every day.
The world you wake up to tomorrow morning will not be the same as the one you’re living right now. It will be different. Chances are good you’ll still be here. But still. This world, this day, this moment, is all so stunningly ephemeral.
This is it.
Grab the world you’re living, the moment you are breathing in right now.
And if you think it’s pretty, tell it so.
Mike put together a short video slideshow as a way to honor Colleen and to make sure the story of the woman he loves doesn’t end with her death.
“She’s gone,” says Mike, “so let’s not let it be in vain. Even if you didn’t know her and you’re listening to this, have a look at your life and stop waiting for the right time. Stop waiting for, ‘When this comes together, then I’ll do that.’ Just live. Just live and love.”
That’s Colleen’s gift — to Mike, to me, and to you:
Just live and love.
P.S. Mike also created this fundraiser as a trust for Colleen’s five kids.
Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this. This is a wonderful reminder of how precious life is and how fragile it is as well. I am sending prayers and blessings to Mike and Colleen’s children for their very unfortunate loss.
Thank you Donna. I am honored that the way she lived continues to touch people even after she has left us.
Incredibly touching…and sad. I’m so very sorry for the loss of this beautiful and creative soul, Colleen. I believe that every day is a gift and I never miss an opportunity to share my love and gratefulness to those around me.
Sending hugs of healing and support to Mike and Colleens’s family.
Thank you Gretchen. She changed the way I see the world and for that I will be forever grateful. She saw beauty in everything.
I just wanted to say how sorry I’m for your loss. She sounds like an absolutely amazing and passionate woman. I also wanted to thank you for sharing your story. Life is so unexpected and living life to the fullest each day is so important.
As a mother I have noticed myself learning and enjoying life to the fullest simply because my daughter is always living in the moment and I want to be in that moment with her so I don’t miss anything. Each night before going to bed I tell my 2 1/2 year old daughter “I love you” and she always says, “with all your heart, mommy?”
I tell her, “With all my heart forever and ever and always.”
Life is too precious to waste. One should learn to embrace each day and appreciate each moment.
Thank you Bimala. There is certainly a lot we can learn from the presence of mind and carefree attitudes of our children. It’s moments like this that really make you reflect on what is truly important. I can assure you I hold my children a little closer these days.
This brief video, of Mike talking about Colleen and a conversation that had about what it means to be an entrepreneur, is well worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6LrC8LlNfQ