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

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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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  1. This is your best post by far! You are soooo very right Mommy Points. Life is precious and may be short so take that trip now not next year. I earn and burn em as quickly as I can so I can have those shared experiences with my family that will never be forgotten.

    I got weepy reading his story….

  2. I hadn’t thought of it before, but our 2week trip to Ireland next summer will be a once in a lifetime trip for us. It will be our first international trip and only our 2nd vacation ever in the 10 years my wife and I have been together. And all of it impossible without miles and points.

    RIP chemist661

  3. As I read your post and description of chemist661, it occurred to me that I saw him at FTU in Los Angeles last year. So sad to hear of his passing. Thank you for making this post.

  4. This is terrible news.

    I enjoyed meeting Tim at the FTUs and at the Chicago Seminars and you could always count on him to enthusiastically share a tip or his experience with miles and points.

    It is a sad day to know that he is no longer with us, but his enthusiasm and fortitude will always be an inspiration.

  5. Excellent posting. I’m a touch older than you, and a few years ago I decided that experiences where more important than stuff. So I’ve been wallowing in experiences (including travel) and acquiring memories.

    Life is good … but only if you let it be.

  6. OK. Now I’m a little freaked, as Chemist661 (otherwise known as Tim) was just a little younger than me when he died.

    Time to actually pull the trigger on that long weekend in Bahrain, I think.

  7. Chemist661 rules! I’m new to this and couldn’t attend because of minor cancer maintenance doctor visits that needed to be put on the agenda or I would have been there as the person with the fewest points, but the most curiosity. I’m confident I can learn a lot from the blogs though so maybe next year. 🙂

  8. What a moving tribute to a wonderful man.

    I only talked to him for a few moments here and there, but I agree that he was an enthusiastic inspiration. Thank you for honoring him with your words.

    Rest in peace, Chemist661.

  9. I read a lot of his posts the last few years and am so sorry to hear of his death.
    Thank you for recognizing him and for your words of wisdom.

  10. Thanks for your post. It brought tears to my eyes. I have to admit, my family does not understand my hobby. But the memories my husband make with our children last a lifetime. You do a great job, MP.

  11. My partner passed away this year and we both had accumulated significant FF balances. When redeeming, you sometimes run into a snag since a couple airlines want a credit card in the name of the ff account holder. One way around this is to request a curiosity card in the other persons name on your account since the deceased persons credit accounts will be close upon via notification of death.

  12. Wow, this was such a timely post. My husband and I were just having a “debate” over whether we should go to Hawaii (I snagged $470 fares from DC) next summer since we are also going on several major trips this year. Even though we use points and miles to pay for airfare and hotels, his point is we still spend a lot of money on meals and activities on each of these trips. He is right, but I feel like life is too short to put great trips off!

  13. I’m so glad that so many of you had a chance to also connect with Tim. It is also neat to hear of some connecting with his posts virtually even though you never had the chance to meet him in person. I agree with MMS that his enthusiasm will always be an inspiration.

    We all obviously have to keep travel somewhat in balance in order to meet daily obligations like work, paying bills, etc. But, when the opportunity is there to build a memory, I think it is an opportunity worth taking. I hope his wife, Marie, has lots of those to hold tight.

  14. My husband and I are in our 40’s and have traveled all over the place with our best friends for years. They are a little older than us but we have the best time with them. They have showed us places that we probably would have not have ventured on our own. Our sweet Linda passed away earlier this year after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. They traveled up until she couldn’t walk any more. I managed all of their award accounts for them so when she passed it was fairly easy to contact the airlines, etc and have the miles transferred into his account. I actually enjoy doing the miles and points thing so that was a breeze.
    Life is short. If you have something you want to do or somewhere you want to go, do it now. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. Live a life without regrets 🙂

  15. I didn’t know Tim, but enjoyed reading his posts and comments online. Condolences to his family. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Good reminder to live for today.
    And also to be sure that someone knows how to access your accounts.

  16. Tim’s witness of how to live life fully with “the deck of life cards you were dealt” has touched all of us.
    Your awareness and beautiful presentation of Tim’s life and values makes it possible for others to pause and evaluate and possibly adjust their life’s journey.

    This is some of your best work Summer.

    Condolences to Tim’s family

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