It seems as though life moves in phases: a spate of friends graduating all at once, then lots of weddings, then come the years where you get birth announcements on a regular basis. There is a bit of a break at that point, and then you begin to get a new generation of graduation announcements and wedding invitations. The natural extension of that is that we are now receiving more and more funeral announcements as the years wear on. Parents of our friends, and now even our contemporaries, are beginning to leave us, and we are looking our own mortality in the eye.
A contemporary passed away this week, a boss lost his fight with cancer, and a friend lost his father. The outpourings have been heartfelt and very supportive from friend to friend, and I began to think about the strength of words. Words to each other, words sharing and highlighting the lives that are now done. Words to make sense of the loss, to make sure the lost one is not forgotten.
The hardest two pieces I have ever had to write were words for my parents, first for my father eleven years ago, then for my mother three years later. While summing up my parents’ lives and carefully choosing what I wanted everyone to remember about them was difficult, standing up and reading the words I had chosen in front of their families and friends was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I don’t have a problem speaking before a group, usually, but I was so afraid of breaking down and not being able to finish what I wanted to, no – had to say. There are other things in my life that have been hard, but none compare to that.
My friend did the same thing just this morning. I hope he doesn’t mind if I share just a few of the words he shared with his family and friends about his father, and I hope he made it through the reading, straight and strong.
I’ve learned a lot about my father in the last couple of years, and almost as much in the last few days. Of course, the great majority of this information did not come from The Man himself – the last person in the world my father wanted to talk about was himself. The most remarkable thing about his life might be how incredibly unimpressed he was by it.
Farewell, Lefty. In every sense of the compliment you loved to bestow on others, you certainly were a gentleman and a scholar.
We can only wish strength to our children when it becomes their turn, and I’m reminded that it’s not too late to create lives for them to remember when they speak of us.