We don’t usually get to pick how or when we die.
We can, with some work, grit and luck, pick the sort of life we live.
Scott Mader, who passed away this week at the age of 57, sure did; his story has lessons for all of us.
Earnest is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Scott; while he had lots of qualities (a dry sense of humor, funny smart, a real moral compass, etc.) it was his earnestness that comes to mind first. James Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington type of earnest.
I met Scott when he was a freshman at our alma mater, Willamette University. He rushed and joined Willamette’s social fraternities (the better to get to know people on campus for a kid who was living at home), joining the SAE house where I became his “big brother.” I’m not sure how much “guidance” I gave him but I learned a thing or two from Scott along the way.
He tolerated my suggestion for an on-campus sleepover after a late night of beverages knowing full well that it was a ploy to have him handy nearby for the “pledge” drop ritual where incoming initiates are kidnapped and dumped someplace in the Salem area early in the morning with a mission to find their way home. He tolerated all sorts the dumb things freshmen got exposed to in a progressive social fraternity, even getting the point when I suggested to him that being open-minded and critical of fraternity norms and conventions was something expected of house members-to-be.
Kids from farm backgrounds in Oregon (or Willamette University for that matter) usually don’t end up at medical schools like Case Western University. It was probably no accident that Scott belonged to a fraternity house where one of the alums had gone to Case; a little inspiration in case there was any doubt. Scott had a plan with purpose and worked hard to make that life happen. While I remember Scott having fun along the way, I don’t remember him wasting his time doing things that weren’t intentional. He was quick to say thanks and please and meant it, and usually the first person to wish people happy birthday or to call out that someone (else) could use a helping hand. Often he was the guy who helped first.
And while he did the atypical for a kid from Salem – med school in Ohio, residency in Los Angeles – he came back home to Oregon to practice his medical craft. There is nothing that surprises me about his life; accomplished physician, loving spouse and parent, etc., living life with an inner purpose. Even when his daunting disease cropped up he tackled it with a smile on his face and a “we’ll lick this attitude” in his behavior. His obituary tells the story well of a life well-lived; his memorial page tells numerous stories of a man much-loved.
Scott Mader died too young and the world is poorer for his absence.
Services for Scott will be held this week. His life narrative survives though for all of us as a guide on how to live an intentional life of fun, work, and care along the way.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.
Photo: Oregon Live – Scott Mader obituary.