I found two text messages on my phone after my exercise
class last Wednesday. The first, from my daughter in nursing school, told me
that she had assisted in a birth for the very first time. Even the sterile
method of communication couldn’t conceal her excitement. The second was from my
husband, telling me that our dear friend, Zig Ziglar, had passed away. Even the
sterile method of communication couldn’t mask his grief.
We had heard of Zig long before we met him. As one of America’s earliest motivational
speakers, Zig’s books, tapes, CDs, videos and personal appearances, have helped
and continue to help millions of people worldwide, prosper. His cheerfulness, faith,
humor and above all optimism, burst forward from his publications.
Yet, when you know a person’s public life, you don’t
necessarily know whether what is visible is a facade or who the person truly
is. So, when my husband called to say that he and Zig were speaking on the same
program in Seattle and that Zig would be joining us for dinner, my children and
I were elated. We quickly sprang into “guest coming” mode, including trying out
a new recipe, which until today is known in our family as “Zig Ziglar
cheesecake”. That night, we loved it almost as much as we loved our guest.
Over the years, the better acquainted we became with Zig,
his wife Jean and two of his children, Tom and Julie, the more our admiration
and affection grew. When Zig entered a room, the world was a brighter place.
In the last few years, after a serious fall, Zig had trouble
with his short-term memory. At first, he recognized my husband; the last time
we visited Zig and Jean, the glimpses of recognition came and went. Yet, his
charm and courtliness never wavered. There is a phrase of praise in Jewish
tradition, ‘tocho k’varo,’ that means that one’s inside mirrors his outside.
When Zig could no longer “present himself” at his best, as all of us try to do
when we know others are looking, there was absolutely no change in his
demeanor. He continued to be dignified, sunny and personable and, most of all,
to beam adoration at his life partner. Zig repeatedly told my husband that the
two of them shared a common bond; in Zig’s words, they both married up. Jean
and Zig, who celebrated their 66th anniversary the Monday before he
died, were a team and right now, as happened when he frequently travelled
during their marriage, they are in different physical locations. Nonetheless,
their spirits are still united. For those of us whose days were made richer
by Zig’s presence, we can only do our best to keep his wisdom and gifts alive
in our world as well.