🎡 “Have I done anything to make people remember that I ever lived?” Old Able uttered that line to a lawyer friend upon his inquiry on whether Abe intended to commit suicide. He intended to convey to his friend that he did not want to leave this world without having done something to be remembered by. Of course, we know how that turned out. I would guess that many of us consider George Washington the best president we’ve had, and Abe would be number two. Perhaps some people in the deep south would disagree, but historians in 2021 ranked the top three presidents: 1. Abraham Lincoln (897 points), 2. George Washington (851), and 3. Franklin Roosevelt (841). The bottom four: Donald Trump, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and last was James Buchanan. The only president with his coffin draped with a Confederate flag was John Tyler.
Sorry, I veered off course, but the idea I was exploring is that most of us want to be remembered for something meaningful instead of only being memories in the minds of those who loved us. In my defense, I spent a lot of time earning a living, raising two kids, and ensuring the people I loved had what they needed and some of what they wanted. I wonder if Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and all the other great people in our past could become famous now? Of course, they could! There will be things that need to be invented or accomplished until the end of time. Most of us have done unique things in our lifetime, just not anything that would make us famous.
During our time on this precious planet, I think our goal should always be to strive to do what is right, be generous and kind to others, and see the joys often hidden away in small pockets.
A few days ago, my daughter fell down the stairs of her townhouse and broke several bones, including her pelvis. As she and I discussed her injuries in the hospital, she said to me, “Daddy, you know I have been blessed in this tragedy!” The blank look on my face revealed that I didn’t understand what she meant. She continued, “You realize that I could have broken my neck and been paralyzed from the neck down to my toes?” She had seen what I had failed to see: she was suffering from wounds that would heal, but it could have been from injuries that remain forever, like paralysis.
Most of us will indeed cross “The Bridge of Tears” without accomplishing anything that will make people remember we ever lived. Scientists have discovered that our minds are active for about four minutes after we stop breathing. They think we will remember our lives and reconcile whether we did anything worth remembering during that time. I’m more inclined to believe that I’ll be thinking about the loved ones I’m leaving behind, especially the ones that need me. I believe in what Robert A. Heinlein said, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” I have found that to be profoundly true.
🎡 Many of us know aggressively friendly people. Some say the average person can have about 150 friends at once (I don’t 😊), and friends are defined as people you are comfortable around. My wife is one of those people. Several of our friends (Mary Webb, Mary Beth, & Jane S) are also.
In her book “Aggressively Friendly,” Robin Dunbar says we have around fifteen close friends, people you go out to dinner with or are everyday social companions. Within that group, five are your most intimate friends. These are people who will give you emotional, physical, and financial help in your time of need. These friends typically share many traits you have in common, i.e., musical taste, love of sports, political opinions, worldviews, and a sense of humor.
When you meet new people, you get to know them, and then you figure out which circle they belong in or decide if you want them as a friend at all. Some say that it takes about 45 hours of being present in another person’s company to move from acquaintance to friend. To move from casual friend to meaningful friend takes another 50 hours, and then to an intimate friend takes another one hundred hours.
We devote 8 ½ hours per month to our five closest friends and about 2 hours to the next ten in our fifteen-person circle. We give less than twenty minutes each month to the rest of our 135 friends.
Since moving into our retirement community, my wife and I have made many friends, but I seriously doubt we have 150. And I was unaware of the process quoted above. It all makes sense, but do we really go through something similar when choosing our friends? We all know, of course, that none of that applies to family. The family has a “free pass” in being part of our life. I do have family members that I’m closer to than others. Still, they are all welcomed as members of my family circle.
Zelda Fitzgerald said, “Nobody has measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” I have room for 150 friends in my heart, but I doubt anywhere close to that many people want me as a friend 😊.
🎡 At the top of the list, the most commonly used word is “the.” Others like “and,” “that,” and “but” are scattered thru the rest of the list. The most written noun is “time,” verb,” be,” and the adjective is “good.”
I seldom think of how much I use those words. Each day, as I prepare to scribble my thoughts, I try carefully to articulate them in a fashion that chases boredom into another room, afraid to emerge until I’m finished. To aid me in that endeavor, I use several pieces of software, and my most trusted proofreader is my wife. As she and I were exiting the side garage door, headed to the dining room in our retirement village, our next-door neighbor (Jack) stopped me and said that he enjoyed my missives and wondered how I took the mundane and made it enjoyable. He remarked that I was a talented writer. My good friend is unaware that I get a lot of help. I wrote my first thoughts on a blog website way back in 1998. I am not sure what it was about, but I have written for 24 years. My website (www.tommyhale.com) has my missives back to 2007. My original intent was to write for my family. Still, it has grown into much more than that, and I have readers scattered worldwide. For an old hillbilly from Grundy (VA), that makes me feel good. As a high school literature student in Ms. Simpson’s class, I remember trying to express my thoughts on paper. The best grade I could get was a “B.” She was always trying to motivate me to do better. She and my mother were good friends, so I knew she was sincere in her attempts to get me to do better. Several of her students are published, authors. She loved Shakespeare and insisted that we all take turns reading a page from his plays. I distinctly remember my fears growing as the reading responsibility moved student by student in my direction. My fear of speaking in public chased me for many years until my position in the company I worked for forced me to teach a class every week for several months. Slowly, I came to realize that overcoming that fear only required repetition. I later learned that the fear would return if you go a long period without doing it. Like anything else you do well, you have to do it often.
Mary Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” That is what we all should strive to be….Tommy
With the holidays just passing, and a new year birthed, I have been in a remembrance mood. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that we lost a very significant family member this past year. It left a hole that no one or nothing can ever fill again.
Through the process of grieving, I remember not only the loved one I recently lost, but the many others that are missing from my life. And it has put the question into my mind; how will people remember me?
When my mother passed away, 19 years ago this month, I was at once consumed with good memories of her. Anyone who knew my mother well, knew that in her later years, she could be very difficult to get along with at times. My mother suffered from debilitating chronic pain. There was not one hour of any day in her last 15 years on earth that she was not in constant pain. She could be very harsh at times and hurtful with her words.
Of course, now I know, being older myself, that it was the pain talking and not my real mother’s heart. But when I was only in my 30s, I did not understand that concept. So why, upon hearing of her passing from this world, did I receive instant healing from the bad memories of times my mother had hurt me? Was it because she was now free from her pain and once again happy? Or was it because all the negatives had passed with her and was no longer an issue?
I remembered the times I had not gotten along well with my mother, for whatever reason. The memories were there if I chose to confront them. But I felt this peace in my heart that there was no need anymore. And when I did force myself to remember something negative, it no longer affected me. The love was greater! I felt content in remembering every good thing about my mother and feeling the love from her in those memories. It felt right. And I felt very blessed for it!
Please don’t get me wrong. My mother was a great woman! She did many, many things right! Unfortunately, it is human nature for us to remember, and spend more time and energy on something a loved one has done to hurt us. The good things become clouded with the pain.
I noticed that the same thing happened to me with my dad’s passing 8 years later. It was indeed another welcomed blessing. Then I got to thinking that maybe it’s God’s way of comforting us. His promise is to comfort us in our grieving. So maybe that is the answer as to why.
Then, I saw it happen again. This time not to me as personally as before with my parents, but I watched it through my own children. The loved one we lost last year was their dad. My ex-husband, co-parent, and close friend. Anyone who knew my children’s dad well knew he had suffered for years with lots of problems. Sometimes very serious problems that not only affected him, but everyone that loved him. Most especially our children.
I watched each of my daughters be blessed in their grieving by the overwhelming remembrance of the good things that were very much a part of their dad. He was a very good man! And sometimes that got lost in his problems. It did surprise me that my children were able to remember so many good parts of their dad. I had always thought that the painful times would leave a permanent cloud over their relationships. But much to my surprise, and relief, each of my daughters received the blessing that I had with the loss of my parents. They can speak so highly of the real man their dad was. His goodness, his love for them and others, and the wonderful parts that made him who he was. It makes this mom’s heart so full to see my daughters have this positive experience through something so life changing as a parent passing.
So back to my question, how will people remember me? I can’t grasp the thought, or vision, of being remembered with such love and adoration as I have remembered my parents, and how I have seen my daughters remember their dad. Maybe that’s not supposed to happen. Maybe none of us are. Maybe that is something that is only left behind for our loved ones when we are gone. Our way, or God’s way, of comforting them in their time of grief.
But how wonderful it would be if we could seriously put aside our differences with people, lay conflict and hurt feelings to rest, and remember only the good parts of a person now, while we are still on earth together. To remember only the positives that are indeed stored in our minds right along with the bad! Why is the negative file always in the front of the filing cabinet of our brain? It’s human nature, but is there a way that we can change it? I for one, think we should give it a try. How much happier everyone involved could be.
It is my hope that I will be remembered as making a positive impact on those I love. My biggest hope is that they will know, without a doubt, how much I love them. I hope they will remember how hard I tried at life, and even though I may not have succeeded in all things they think are important, that I did succeed in what God put me on the earth to accomplish. I hope they will be happy they knew me, and proud of the person I was. I hope that just maybe; I did something so right that they even learned an important lesson from me. Something that will be of great help to them after I am gone.
How will you be remembered? Something to ponder…JoAnn