NOT LONG AGO my Uncle Dode passed away. He was 99. He was happy and healthy and caring for himself in his own home when he tripped over the dog dish and fell. He never got up again. If not for that dog dish, he would have lived to be 150. Maybe 200.

I helped carry Dode to his final rest. I'd like to tell him, "I was the last guy to let you down." I'd like to tell him that because I'd love to hear his laugh just one more time. Dode had a gift for living in the moment. When he was with you, he was really with you. People loved to visit with him. They loved to see him light up and burst out with, "The hell you say!"

He was a lifelong Mason who rained all over anybody who belittled Joseph Smith. There aren't many of those guys around anymore. He was in his late 90s when he decided he'd take up meditation. It didn't surprise me. Dode was always open to new things. He had the curiosity of a cougar. And meditation was a nice fit for him. It helps people stay in the present and not drift away into the past or project themselves into the future — not that Dode had that problem.

Because of Dode, I'm now studying meditation.

What's good for the uncle is good for the nephew.

I'm writing about Dode today because I think he knew something the rest of us don't. He knew that the key to happiness and a well-lived life is to be alert, attentive and present in every moment. Not in a simple "stop and smell the roses" kind of way. And not by "wringing everything we can out of life" in a self-interested way but by not letting our brains wander off to fret over the past or fear for the future.

It's been said that complete attention is a form of prayer.

I believe that.

It's also been said that gratitude is a prayer as well. When we give total attention to what is happening around us as Dode did — the smells, the sights, our breathing, the thumping of our hearts — most human beings, I'm convinced, are wired to feel a sense of gratitude.

That was Dode. Always grateful. When you'd share a little story with him or an insight or a clever joke, he'd clap his hands together, lean back and enjoy the moment for all it was worth. And when you left, with a bounce in your step and your forehead less wrinkled, Dode would thank you for making his day. He seemed to have taken a page from the book of Izaak Walton, the legendary British fly fisherman. Walton says, "God has two dwellings — one in heaven and the other in a meek and thankful heart."

In the end, Uncle Dode's end was a good one. Good lives, it's been said, make for good funerals. Dode's was exceptional. As I listened to the talks they all seemed to say that Dode was fully alive and forever interested in what others were doing, saying and thinking. In other words, he was all about "now." And though he didn't spend much time in church, in that regard he reminded me of another 90-something leader who approaches life much the same way. It's not about seizing the day. It's about seizing the moment — about seizing this ... very ... moment ... right ... now.

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