A friend of mine died Tuesday. She was a force to be reckoned with while she graced us with her presence. She loved the outdoors and would hike every day if she could. She and her adventurous husband would take trips near and far to know the world a little bit better. She was an avid reader, ran a book club, always up on current events, had informed opinions on all the important issues. She had her own mind about things. She worked as a teacher at a local school, donating her time, energy and resources to build the school and make sure it was financially sound, holding fundraisers and networking with the community. She was an incredible cook, always looking for a challenging recipe with wholesome ingredients. She was an entertainer-loved having people over to celebrate any occasion. She was an excellent listener and she cared about people-her husband most of all. But especially the children at the school, spending time with them to help them learn hard subjects, creating real relationships with them because sometimes, that’s the only adult they had in their lives that did that. She motivated them, fanned the sparks of learning, made them laugh, helped them to feel confident about themselves and what they could do. She helped them to see their futures.
She’s in a different place now I think. Resting from her battle with the Big C. She was a real trouper, holding out over several years until finally, she swam with the tide and let it take her. But what a wake she left as she did! That’s what I will call her legacy. She held to life for as long as it was possible with gripping resolve, courage, and strength. She did not go quietly!
And what we can see of her now exists in the hearts and minds of her close friends, intimate relationships but especially in the children and families she touched. A whole school full of children now motivated more than ever to take their slice of life’s pie and create something even more wonderful. How do you even measure that?
The spark of life she lit in each child will now live another 70 or 80 years to touch even more lives and shine brightly as they do.
When I listen to the news, the political arguments or I notice the headlines in magazines and newspapers, the things being talked about feel so shallow and unimportant in comparison.
As I think about her I fall short in comparison too. Taking stock of what I have done with my life, the things I have accumulated to leave to the next generation. What will I leave behind? How have I affected the world? What will YOU leave behind?
Will you leave behind a legacy made of an accumulation of “stuff” or money to be passed down to another generation who will probably bank it, sell it all and not ascribe meaning to it; rotting wood, metal, resentments, pain, more boxes in your garage? Things that will crumble and turn into dust once we all have made our final journeys home. Or will you generate sparks of encouragement, love, connection, understanding and forgiveness, caring and support, in those you come into contact with as my friend did? Will you change people (and yourself) by engaging with them, improving their lives, helping them by understanding them more? Making it OK for them to make mistakes and be human, and loving them through it.
Giving them hope.
Connecting with others-she was really good at that. Are you? How much more time do you want to let go by? How much do you have left?
Make a difference in someone’s life today by caring about and connecting with him or her. Create some sparks of your own. She would have.
Elisa M. Thomas MA LMFT (910) 446-3697