My life is not justified—not fully at least. Not yet.
If not at 59, will it be at 69, 79? Tomorrow? Next week? When will it be? And will I know? Will I sense it with every part of my being? Ah, I’ll say, now I get why I am here!
The internal debate of self-vindication surrounding my continued good health (hypothyroidism is my sole issue) as friends contend with this or that—a minor cold or a barrage of ailments—goes hand in hand with what is my purpose in life, asking daily what can I do to serve God while I’m here?
Do we have to become famous, win Pulitzers, erect monuments in order to been seen as having lived a life of value? Or is it more about each interaction one person has with another that makes our existence worthwhile?
This blog was first posted a few years ago, drafted on the heels of having seen a new doctor regarding treatment for a foot I abused while hiking. She requested—this is what a unique person she was—that I email her in two weeks to let her know how my foot was healing. I did as she asked and we exchanged a half dozen emails about her pending move back to her hometown near lovely San Diego. The closing of these emails was me stating that come winter time, I’d be thinking of her with envy. She sent back the iconic smiley face.
Five weeks later, she was dead. Something burst in her brain and she was gone immediately.
A mother of two boys on either side of ten, recently divorced, she was setting off on an adventure, building a new life for herself and her kids. She was looking forward to being around family again and re-establishing bonds that distance inhibits even when they stay intact. Having lived away from my parents and extended family for fifteen years, I knew what she meant. Relationships can stay close when miles separate you—it takes work—but sharing daily life with someone brings a different level of connectedness.
Then she was gone. In an unexpected breath of a moment everything changed for her children, her family, and her friends.
It’s what we do. We can ponder why the sky is that particular shade of cornflower blue today when yesterday by late afternoon it had a lilac tinge to it. Ruminating on the skies, we can certainly muse about God, his blueprint for our lives, and wondering why her and not me?
What the plan for my life may be has me awakening each day, delving into this and that, writing and sharing my thoughts. Why am I allowed to continue to be here, looking out at the yard, seeing spring arrive, flowers turn from green to bloom, hummingbirds begin their darting back and forth between two feeders? What is it that I am to contribute that enables me to remain here, weaving words and creating worlds?
Her death and too many others jolt me think and again to think of what legacy I will leave when I split from earth.
I’m not going to Madam Curie a cure, immortalize The Wright Brothers or The Johnstown Flood like David McCullough, I’m not the entrepreneur to launch a million dollar innovative industry. Those things are not in me, although striving to be like McCullough is not a bad writing goal to have in life.
What I know deeply in my heart is that I want to continue doing is striving to be a good person.
I want to grow in my faith so that it defines me far more than my other personality traits—the crazy aspects that make me, me—the cackling laugh, the moving at warp speed, the ability to make the bed and somehow brush my teeth at the same time.
I yearn to be a verbal disciple of Christ, on paper, because attempting to articulate my faith isn’t always eloquence in action.
I aspire to craft blogs that make you laugh or think or touch the spots of grief that hide inside so you can let them out.
I crave to create fiction that tells a story with such enticing characters, strong descriptions, and interesting plot that people share it with friends for the sheer fun of it.
I desire to travel and continue enlightening myself by immersion in the history of places and the gift of meeting the people who currently live there.
I long to breathe deeply of life every day so that God is justified in keeping me here a little bit longer and maybe a little bit longer after that.
I want a lot, don’t I?
Having recently spent too short a time in the presence of an enticing 91-year-old, I think that justifying our lives is often about who we are in the moment of interacting with others. We have known Grumpy Old Men and women. The people who carp on about this, complain about that, growl on about another thing or two. Then we have the elderly in whose presence we simply want to sit and be. They charm and captivate us and we want to have coffee, talk about life or sports—the topic doesn’t matter, we are intrigued to hear this particular person’s point of view on it.
I came away from my encounter with that sweet elderly gent thinking about what a legacy he instills in everyone who crosses his path. He may or may not have done things deemed “great” by society. What I know is what he does in the presence of others—pulls them into his world with stories, quick wit, and an all encompassing smile—and that is huge indeed.
So with a nod to Madame Curie and those famous folks doing good in the world, I will continue to work on a legacy that is a simple one:
Be a better person in order that those who end up in my wake are not brutally jostled by it,
but rather find themselves enjoying the ride.
What’s legacy are you working to create?