Sunday, March 3, 2013

You'll Be Just a Memory

One day, you'll be just a memory
for some people.
Do your best to be a good one.

I was stunned the first time I read this because it is the absolute truth and truth can be pretty jarring. None of us will be here forever and I well know that someday I, too, will be gone - just like my mom, dad, sister, and a few good friends. But I tend to think of myself in terms of the past and present, not so much in the future. I know what my past looks like and how I was then; the here and now are what I muddle through daily, but my future is totally unknown. As to how I'll be remembered by others.... that's a very good question.

This time of year seems to be one of stirring, a time when winter shifts a bit toward the spring that's out there somewhere. It was in February twenty six years ago that I lost my mom; in December a year ago I lost my sister. Recently, a dear friend's death was sudden and totally unexpected. I know that people of my age begin to experience these losses more and more often, so it follows that these lead to greater introspection.

It helps to think of people we've known and how we remember them - and why. I had an uncle whom I disliked immensely; I wasn't the only one. We did not see him often, but I never looked forward to it. Mean-spirited and rude, he knowingly asked inappropriate, embarrassing questions in front of others just to watch your reaction. It seems that he got great pleasure at the expense of others. A great "ladies' man", he went out dancing well into his eighties, so he certainly had his charming side. In his later years he did seem to mellow and the last time I saw him he was very kind and appreciative of the visit we had. I have tried to understand why he behaved as he did and to remember him as he was that last time I saw him. That's difficult; there are so many negative memories of him because of his unkind treatment of others that I'm afraid most of my memories of him aren't that good.

In contrast, there must have been two hundred people at the memorial service for the friend mentioned above. Everyone spoke of her as a well-respected friend and devoted volunteer to the myriad causes she was committed to. I liked and felt at ease with her immediately because she was approachable, down to earth, curious about the world around her, and willing to share whatever she knew. There was never a doubt about what she valued most - her husband, family, friends, and the importance of learning about and sharing knowledge of the natural world. She literally gave her all and the world is better because she was here.

Although we have no direct control over how others will ultimately remember us, we certainly can control how we live our lives today. All those "little" day to day actions do add up. Consider those who have gone before you - those you remember warmly and those you do not - and let them be your example. Your individual standards, principles, morals, and religion will guide you. As a Christian, I have a sterling example before me - all I need do is attempt to follow in His footsteps...

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it,
and gave it to them saying.
"This is my body given for you;
do this in remembrance of me."
Luke 22:19

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