You Don’t Need To Know How To Swim


As part of my professional life, I am contracted with various companies to respond to Critical Incidents.   As a Critical Incident Responder I have attended many  difficult events.  Some impact me more personally and much more deeply than others do.

Over the course of the last few months, I have been moved by two incredibly sad events.  The first, a beloved coach who died suddenly after a practice.  The second, a young person in the prime of life, who left work on a Friday and never returned after their tragic sudden death.

For each of these events I was called upon to offer  my support and expertise as a qualified Grief Counsellor.  The thing about this work is that as an observer, a listener, a facilitator and confident I am in a privileged position.  Baring witness to the stories and the emotions of those fully impacted by a  tragedy is something that I participate in with great respect.

I learn about the lives of  individuals who I have never met.  I get a view into their character, life struggles,  accomplishments and their importance to those who have had the good fortune to know them.

It may seem odd, but it’s impossible to leave these interventions  without feeling connected to the those who are grieving the loss.  I often share a strong visceral sense of deep sadness over a life and potential that has been taken away too soon.

It’s equally true that these strange vicarious connections open my eyes to the importance of day to day interactions with those around me.  These two individuals had a profound and important impact on the folks they came into contact with.  They were very different in age, culture and personality but they shared some common and important life views.  I know this because each individual and group who shared memories with me recounted similar stories.

They were the stories of two lives lived to the fullest.  The coach , a swim coach, who had never learned to swim.   The young person, a self starter, who had moved up the ladder at a fast paced, high stress job but never forgot to take the time to support and guide peers and support managers , share a laugh and make others feel special.

These two shared the commonality of  believing in themselves.   Each had a special ability to connect, support and teach others.   They achieved great things.  These two were perfect examples of not letting obstacles get in the way.  Rather they both looked at possibilities, said yes to opportunities, sought out what they loved and lived each and every moment.

It struck me, as I spoke with teammates and colleagues that each of these remarkable individuals shared a base value firmly rooted in authenticity.   Being authentic allowed them to fully embrace life with honesty and integrity.

The hard thing about  sudden loss, is the realization that death can come to anyone of us at anytime.  Even those who seem omnipotent.  The loss of these individuals truly called into question the meaning of life for those who knew them.  Each individual that I spoke with had the same question.

Why?  How could these two powerful forces of nature be silenced forever?

The answer to why may bring us some closure but it probably won’t bring much comfort.  I believe that each of us finds solace only when we truly understand how our lives have been impacted by a life lost.  How this unique connection will influence our own journey forward.

Well lived lives demand us to take stock, re-evaluate and take time to recalibrate our own lives.  It got me thinking about messages to integrate into my daily life.

My take away is:

  • Pay attention to those who cross my life path.  Really see them. Really listen.
  • Mastering of a task isn’t all there is.   Supporting someone else to master a task may be the greatest achievement.
  • Believe in “self”.  It’s infectious and will have a trickle down affect that will spark great moments for those around me.
  • Take time for others, even when I’m busy focusing on my own individual success.  This will serve to illuminate my path and will add value to all of my achievements.
  • Let people know how I feel because time won’t always be on my side
  • Stay humble, be aware, be kind and I will succeed in the most important goal.  An authentic life lived well.

The challenge set out by individuals who touch our lives with authenticity, honesty,  integrity does not die with them.  Rather, they leave us with the task of nurturing  the flame they have ignited in us and challenge us to continue to build on the legacy they began.

Having a gift and using it to support others to succeed is empowering both for the gift giver and the gift receiver.  You don’t have to know how to swim to help others become great swimmers.  You just have to care enough to watch, listen, support and believe in each persons ability to succeed.

Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself what sparks  you are igniting in your world?