Remembering

This morning I sang at a memorial service for a man who was a long-time member of my church choir.  This evening I took one of my daughters and her husband out to dinner (they missed the big family dinner last month) to celebrate their birthdays and to remember Don.  In between I rested a bit and I translated a few verses of Amos.  This isn’t about translating Amos.

The gentleman who died last month was a member of the choir for 40 years.  He was in many of the musicals at the church as well.  At church, at least, we traveled in many of the same circles.  And this was the first memorial service I’ve attended since Don’s services.  But this isn’t about what it was like to attend a service for someone else so soon after losing my own husband.

This is about…well, you’ll see.  As I said, we traveled in many of the same circles, so I knew many of the people, perhaps most of the people, at the service today.  Many of them had been at Don’s service, but some of them couldn’t be.  Several people told me today how sorry they were that they couldn’t be at Don’s service.  They didn’t have to tell me that – I already knew that they would have been there if they could.  Still, it was nice to hear.

There was a lot of music in the service today.  Given the man, that made sense.  There was  a lot of music, and there were several tributes and a lot of stories.  People said wonderful things about this man.  And truthful things.  Things that made people laugh.  And cry a bit.

I remembered Don’s service.  People laughed and cried.  And it was clear that Don was greatly loved.  And I wished he’d known that more when he was alive.

Some of us from the theater group sang “L’Chaim” from “Fiddler on the Roof”, a show that this man had done with us, and one of his favorite songs.  After the service, as we were milling about at the reception, a friend said that as we were singing, she remembered being on stage with Don during that song (they were both Russians in the bar in that scene).  She talked about how much fun they had and how nervous they were about what they were doing (at first).

Tonight at dinner I sat with my daughter and son-in-law, and we talked about Don.  We told stories, and we bemoaned Don’s seeming inability to understand how much he was loved and by how many in his life.  He started to figure it out when he was really sick and people came by and sent him things and wrote messages on his caringbridge site.  Oh, but how nice it would have been if he had figured that out sooner.

So I was wondering all day today, what will people say about us after we’re gone?  I’ve often heard people say things such as, “it’s too bad that the one day people say great things about you, you won’t be there to hear it.”  Well, it does seem a little silly to have a pre-memorial service.  Still, it’s not such a bad idea to appreciate people while we can.

I had this great chemistry teacher in high school – Mr. Clancy.  He was one of the best teachers I ever had.  A few years ago, I thought I ought to look him up and let him know.  What I discovered was that I was a few years too late.  He’d died a few years earlier.  I may still try to contact his family, but wouldn’t it have been nice to be able to tell Mr. Clancy that he made a difference in my life?

We can control how we live our lives.  We can try to live in such a way that, when we die, lots of people will cry and tell stories.  And laugh and cry.  And then, we can also control how we interact with other people.  We don’t have to wait until we’re crying at their funerals.

It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.

So all of you who told me that you wanted to be at Don’s service – I know you did.  And thank you for telling me anyway.  That really meant something.  And Mr. Clancy, I’m sorry I never got around to telling you this while you were alive – but you made a big difference in my life.  You were the best teacher at Clarkstown South High School.  Really.

I should probably go now.  I’ve got more people to talk to so I can let them know how important they’ve been to me.

That’s my mite.  It’s all I’ve got.

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