Monday, February 25, 2013

In death, how do you measure a life?

In other words at the end of our journey when our legacy is written in stone, what is it that will define our lives?

Is ones legacy based on the permanence of the granite or marble marker that tells the chronological and family story about who the person lying there was? Born on a certain date and died on a certain date. The husband or wife to someone and perhaps a father, brother or sister as well.

Or is something else entirely more important than some physical marker when determining our true legacy and a measure of our lives?

Isn't the story of our lives is defined by what is permanently engraved into the hearts and minds of those who knew us best, those who knew us on a superficial level and those who knew us not at all and who only learn about us through the story's of others?

Isn't it there where who we were is ultimately decided.

This past week I unfortunately had to travel to the funeral of my uncle who passed away at the age of 90.

He had lived a long life and after his wife had passed away 6 years ago he most likely had lost some of his will to live.

None of that, however, has to do with my point. My point is that it took the death and subsequent eulogy of this man for me to learn what kind of a human being that he truly was.

That this was the case was my fault as I was either too busy, too disinterested or too swayed by familial politics to make the effort. Oh I knew his general resume, knew he was a good guy and I knew that when I had a medical question that I could reach out to him, but that was the extent of our relationship.

Driving home I asked myself how many other people are in my life with whom I maintain this kind of cursory and surface level relationship?

For it was only after my uncle had died that I learned how much more there was to the man that really mattered. How many lives he touched and what he meant to so many people.

People spoke of the fine and noble attributes that he possessed and the empathy and caring that he expressed to all. They spoke to the type of father and husband that he was along with the spirituality that he possessed which included the asking of questions and his tireless journey to try and find answers.

Of course his upbringing, schooling and success as a doctor were discussed but again only in the context of defining the man that he was and not the honors or money that he received.

Driving home it all made me feel as if I had missed an opportunity to know, really know, a special person.

It also made me realize that in the end we will all end up returning to the earth and that the only true arbiter of who we were and of what we contributed aren't only those few people who stand up and eulogize us, but those whose lives we touched in some large or even small way.

The money, the power, the house and all of the other things we accumulate throughout our lifetime will no longer matter.

And all we will truly be is how those who are left behind will remember us in terms of who we were as a human being.

Uncle Milton, RIP!

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