A Few Thoughts on Life, Death, Miles, and Points

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  1. BoardingArea

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    The most memorable moment at the 2013 Chicago Seminars wasn’t a new deal that I learned, or a tip I was reminded of, it was a person I met. I didn’t mention this specifically when I wrote my wrap-up of the Chicago Seminars because I didn’t know enough of the story then for it to feel right for me to share, but that changed today when I was catching up on the Chicago Seminars Thread on Flyertalk.

    On Saturday between presentations, as I often do, I was hanging out near the registration desk at the Chicago Seminars. I saw a middle aged woman and her younger niece come up to register. At first I thought little of it as I was sitting off to the side and doing something probably all together unimportant on my iPhone, but then I started to hear what sounded like crying. That is obviously not a normal sort of exchange at the Chicago Seminars registration desk, so I started paying much more attention as to what was going on. Within seconds I was out of my iPhone induced semi-coma and standing over with this woman and her niece.

    I learned that her husband, who was in his 50′s, had just passed away in August from cancer. The woman herself was not a miles and points junkie, but said through tears that she came to the seminars because her husband was so passionate about it, and she knew he would be here if he could. In fact, he had registered before his death, and she was attending in his place. She said that she wanted to feel close to him by being at the seminars. I believe she also said that she was very proud that she and her niece had flown here on miles, and she knew he would love that. I talked with her for a few minutes, gave her hugs, looked at a picture of her husband, and told her she was in the right place as so many people at these seminars are very nice. I invited her to the spouses session I was hosting that night, and hoped to see her again during the seminars, but our paths didn’t again cross. I thought of her often since then, but didn’t know who exactly her husband was until today.

    As I learned on Flyertalk today, he was a man with whom I had many great exchanges with at previous Chicago Seminars. I’m pretty sure we had exchanged some emails as well. Had his wife said his Flyertalk screen name, chemist661, I would have immediately known who he was. Because of his specific type of cancer, his speech was somewhat impaired, but if you listened carefully you could understand every word. When that didn’t work, he didn’t hesitate to asking questions or sharing info by writing it down on pieces of paper. And boy he could write fast. This man had cancer, but larger than that, had a passion for miles and points, and how they could get you wherever you wanted to be. He wasn’t going to let anything stop him from learning, sharing, and traveling. He was passionate about this stuff, and based on his wife’s presence at the Seminars in his place, she knew that, too.

    Beyond just being sad about his passing, his story reminds me of a few things that I wanted to make sure to share with others.

    • Make sure your loved ones know about your miles and points accounts, and how to access them. Obviously you can’t and don’t need to ensure that your loved ones are miles and points experts, but make sure that they have at least a basic understanding of what you have where, and how to access those accounts. Technically they probably aren’t supposed to use your miles and points in the event that the account holder passes away, but they also probably don’t scan the obituaries for members names. Do what your loved one would want you to do. AwardWallet.com can be an easy central place for this information to be stored…just make sure they know how to log-on to Award Wallet. If you have a trusted miles and points friend who could help your partner when needed that would also be great.
    • If you need to, transfer your credit card reward points to hotel and airline partners. If you do receive a terminal diagnosis, transfer your credit card points to a hotel or airline partner, if your partner won’t be able to retain the credit card account. In the event you pass on, sooner or later your credit cards will likely close. Don’t lose those points, but instead transfer them to an account like United, Hyatt, British Airways, etc. ahead of time where you can be more assured that a loved one can keep easily accessing them. Better yet, transfer them to your partners’ account. Or, at least make sure that a loved one knows how to do that if they need to.
    • Don’t feel bad about taking a “once in a lifetime” trip now, and then again. I know I have gotten a couple of side-eyes both from people who know me in the real world, and those on the internet, when we take “fancy” trips to places like Ireland, Maui, and the Maldives all in a relatively short time span. Often that comes from those who don’t truly understand how attainable the world can be with miles and points, but don’t let a lack of understanding by others stop you from taking the trip you have always looked forward to. You can read chemist661′s story he wrote on Flyertalk about the places he went before and during his battle with cancer as a starting point for your own inspiration. Take lots of “once in a lifetime” trips because you never know when it might be just that. Worst case scenario, you have tons of fantastic memories to look back on when you are 100+ years old.
    • Share the passion you have for this hobby with others. What I will remember about this man was how excited he got about talking miles and points, even when he couldn’t really talk. Collecting miles and points isn’t just about getting in on a deal for yourself, it is about getting your family and friends around the world, and sharing how that is possible with others. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff and not help others along the way.

    I’m sure there are many people who knew chemist661 much much better than I did, and I am very sorry for their loss. However, he certainly left an imprint on me, and based on our interactions (and reading his posts on Flyertalk), I am pretty sure he would be glad if his story inspired just one person to do one of the above things.

    Fly free, Chemist661.

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