I remember the moment thirty-one years ago as if it were yesterday. What should have been a moment to savor was one of those moments you remember for the bitter poignancy instead.
I had just been given the most expensive gift of my life up to that point. My boss had recorded a banner year, and I had been his right hand man in the mortgage brokerage business. His reward to me, over and above a nice salary, was a new Rolex. It cost more than my first car. Actually, it cost more than my first two cars.
I never really saw myself owning an expensive watch, but in that business, where millions were made daily, and the clients I worked with wore designer suits and ostrich boots, a Rolex signified you were a player. So part of me was proud and excited.
I only worked in this business for a few years, but it was long enough to whet my appetite for wealth. I took the job to get business experience in order to run my own business someday. The experience was exactly what I needed to prepare me. But the desire for wealth had a corrupting effect, and deep down I knew I was slipping into a moral trap.
But things changed for me in a moment, right before Christmas.
Our seven-month-old son was in dire condition, his multiple congenital heart defects making every heartbeat an effort his small body was not made for. I did not know it the day I got the Rolex, but within a month Neil would be gone. I certainly knew things didn't look good for him.
It was the Christmas season and life had to go on for me, my wife, and my daughter Denise, just 14 months older than Neil. So off to the mall I went to shop for Christmas presents. As I walked by the fountain in the mall's grand center, I felt the odd urge to take my watch off and throw it into the bubbling water.
In light of the pain I was feeling, that gold and silver timepiece meant nothing to me. I remember thinking, "I'll gladly trade this watch for a medical miracle." For whatever reason, the awareness of life's value compared to the fleeting value of stuff, even expensive stuff, was the kind of moment that reboots the heart. Mine changed forever that day.
I have never been captured by the desire for wealth since that moment. Our son's death reset my life in several ways, including an appreciation for the truly important things in life like God and family, and a disdain for anything that might steal my focus.
As you head into 2016, consider what is really important to you. Think about what life would be like without your mate or your children. Surely nothing compares to the value of the special people in your life. Hold them close and tell them how much they mean to you. As you put the stuff of Christmas away, resolve to keep your relationships close.