(This is the first post about the life of Chester Tyra. Also see the others: Think of the Difference You'd Make to the One Who Needs it, My Name is Daniel, and I Was His Best Friend Too, FUN, and What Made Him Who He Was.) This afternoon I will be speaking at the funeral of Chester Tyra, whom I loved dearly. He was a remarkable man in a lot of ways, but foremost among them was his unshakable optimism.
I remember going to visit him in the hospital one day a couple of years ago. Even though he had trouble breathing over the last several years and fought a long hard fight with his health, that day he was just like he always was in the hospital: somehow making everyone's day around him better. Laying there in his hospital bed, he told me something I also heard him say a dozen other times: "I've never had a bad day in my life. I wake up every day, look out the window, and am sure that today is going to be a good day."
I left Chester's room that day and also visited a man in the hospital who was from my church, but whom I didn't know. He was about the same age as Chester (in his 80's), but was in better condition physically although it was hard to tell from the long list of complaints he started relaying to me from the moment I entered the door. He told me how terribly this was going, and how awful that was, while at the same time waiting to be discharged from the hospital because he was well! Finally, his daughter said to him, "Dad, things could be a lot worse." He replied, "Well, I sure don't know how!"
I wanted to tell him to take his Chester Tyra medicine and be quiet for a while, but thankfully I didn't.
I left the hospital that day realizing that neither of those men became like that overnight, but it was a lifetime of choices about how they thought, what they did, how they used their time and resources, and how they treated people that led one to say that he'd never had a bad day (even though I knew him well enough to know he'd had his share of bad things happen to him) and the other to only be able to see bad things around him regardless of how much good was present.
Then I realized that I am already in the process of becoming like one of them or the other. Assuming I make it into my 80's, with the way I live my life right now, how will I naturally end up at that age? How will you? And what do we do (in the midst of this world that has way too many tsunamis and child molesters) to cultivate an awareness of how utterly good today and every day really is?