Entries in legacy (3)
The concept of Loss is so large that it is impossible to try to address the vastness of it in a simple blog. The concept, in its entirety, has been something that I have been pondering for some time. In this blog I am focusing on loss as related to death in particular.
I just spent the weekend in Denver at a memorial service for a woman with whom I grew up with. In many ways she had been given the title of second mom to me and my siblings. I have known her since I was 5 years old and our families had spent more than a decade celebrating every holiday together. Her health had been ailing her for quite some time and so Nancy's death came as more of a blessing than anything. Sitting in the memorial service, it was hard to describe the feelings that I had. I was thankful she wasn't suffering anymore, but there was such a sense of loss with it. She was the keeper of secrets. And had a memory of things that I had long forgotten or had not even remembered. Nancy could remember things that I could not. I had not lived near her for many years but whenever I saw her it was like no time had passed. She would ask me things about myself that I had long ago lost interest in, had changed my opinion on, or was in process of rethinking what I thought. I had a history with her that I have not had with any other adult woman. There is such a sense of loss in that. No one will ever be able to replace that.
I was talking with her daughter, my long time friend Tina, and she said something about our friendship that is so true: You can't replace time. No, you cannot. It has made me think more and more about time, life, dreams, and desires. Life is short. Nancy was nearing 80 but lived a full life. It was evident by what people said about her at her memorial. As I listened to what people were saying, but set my gaze on the absolutely majestic Rocky Mountains, I began to think about the concept of a full life for myself. I ask these questions of myself, but I encourage you to ask them of yourself as well. Am I living to my full potential? Am I living well? Am I allowing myself to dream and create? These are just a few to get you started.
I am in the process of asking myself these questions with no conclusions as of yet, but I am enjoying the process of asking them and letting my heart, soul, and thoughts go where they go. Nancy was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; however, I believe she did not have regrets at the end. I don not want to have regrets either.
This weekend I, as many others, heard about the humanitarian group of medical doctors that were in a remote village in Afghanistan and killed by the Taliban. The team leader, Tom Little, was a both a member of the Church that my family attends in New York and a longtime friend of my parents. His wife happened to be in New York when he was killed. Just 2 days earlier she was having dinner with another family friend and suspected that something had gone terribly wrong. She had not heard from Tom in 40 hours which was right before they were headed back over the mountain from the Village to Kabul. Her gut instinct was right. As we know, most were shot dead en route. Just a few months ago Tom had been at the Church in Loudonville, NY saying that things were getting worse and worse in Afghanistan and that their ability to give medical aid to those that need it in remote areas was becoming much more dangerous than ever. He would know; he and his family had lived there for 30 years as medical missionaries or serving as humanitarians. He and his family knew the risks.
His life no doubt will be a legacy of what he was willing to give and sacrifice for a greater cause. The calling for he and his family is unique, no doubt. But I think it is important for each one of us to think about what we are willing to sacrifice for a greater cause or greater good. The scale does not have to compare to that of the Littles in Afghanistan. Each person, each family can evaluate what that is for themselves. My prayers go out to all the family members who lost a loved one in that terrible shooting.
As we leave Memorial Day weekend, all of us as a nation are reminded of the great sacrifices made for us by military men and women over the last two plus centuries. It is beyond my comprehension what these brave people endured so we might enjoy the freedoms we now have as Americans.
My wife, Renee, and I recently vacationed in Paris. It was a delightful time and an astonishingly beautiful city. But the highlight of our time there was visiting the Arc de Triomphe where Renee’s father kneeled for a picture in June 1945, along with 30 some fellow soldiers and the mayor of the city. Renee has had that picture for decades, and we brought a copy with us to see if we could find the exact spot where he knelt. And we did! The town homes in the rear of the picture were still there and the exact same pillars and chain were still present. She knelt, I took her picture, and she then stood there and wept both for the privilege to be where he had been, and for her loss (he died in 1972). It was an awesome experience.
A couple of hundred miles to the north my Uncle Joe is buried, so I’m told, in a military cemetery. He died during the last months of the war when his fighter plane was shot down over Germany. I never had the privilege of meeting my Uncle Joe or my father-in-law, but I am grateful for their sacrifice and for the legacy that they left in their heroic wake.
These two great men are a minute but true sampling of the millions of men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. And their legacy is one that we cannot and should not ever forget. We all leave legacies and these legacies cost us something. I am struck with the fact that I am just as responsible to leave a lasting legacy for my children, grandchildren, and the generations to follow after that. My father-in-law and my uncle have had a part in enabling my wife and me to live a full and free life. And I realize that I now have the responsibility to see to it that my legacy will be one that will enable the generations to come in our family to live in peace and freedom. Thank God for our brave veterans. May He give us the grace and strength to live lives worthy of their sacrifice.