People die. It’s a cold, hard certainty of life. We are born with this bittersweet and slightly scary knowledge because it is entwined in our genetic make up. We are born. We die. Those two facts are completely and utterly out of our control. It’s what we do in-between, how we make a statement on the fabric of our lives as well as others…well, that’s completely within our realm of control. Mostly. Of course, shit does happen.
I was at a funeral today. A woman who worked for my Dad for years. She had been diagnosed, about 18 months ago, with a rare form of kidney cancer. She was 65. She left behind two kids. And a ton of friends.
I wasn’t close with her. In fact, after the funeral today, I realized how much this woman must have NOT liked me. Most likely because I’m the bosses daughter who was being prepped to take on some of her responsibilities. It wasn’t that we didn’t get along, when we worked together. We did, just fine. I’m sure though, there must have been some heavy duty resentment.
Anyways. Today was the funeral. I was sitting between my sister and my dad, watching the sanctuary of this small conservative synagogue fill up before the service started. My sister turned to me and said, in awe, “It’s incredible, 65 years of life can fit into a room of this size.” And it was then that it hit me, the true meaning of living on through someone.
Each person in that room represented at least one story, memory, thought, picture, IMPRINT…of her life.
For some reason, I always pictured living on through someone as a feeling in your heart. It never occurred to me that pieces of a life accumulated throughout every person that you somehow touched, like pieces of a puzzle. And that puzzle came together when these people gathered to embrace and celebrate a life and say goodbye to the body that housed that essence.
Simple really, this realization that most people probably already knew. But it never truly occurred to ME. At least, not in a way that I really listened or paid attention to. Until I was sitting at the funeral of someone that I never felt close to.
Then her son spoke. And he said EXACTLY what I had been sitting there thinking about. You make an impact on someone, whether you know them or not. Through words and actions. And then that person may go on to touch another because of something you did. And so on.
That is TRULY how you live on. That is what a legacy is.
She was so alive and vibrant in that sanctuary, through that funeral service that she orchestrated in the months prior to her impending death. Through words spoken by friends and family. Her strength of belief in Judaism and our God.
In that sanctuary, so many pieces of the puzzle gathered. People who she affected in some way. A woman who I didn’t know in the way that all of those other people did, who loved her and will miss her presence horribly. But her legacy in death to me, was to make me realize that I need to positively live each day in a way that will carry on and affect anyone who comes in contact with me.
This woman who, in life, annoyed me with her bossiness and seemingly brash and condescending ways suddenly became someone that I want to, in some strange way, follow her example.
Part of her has inexplicably lived on through me. I became, without even consciously realizing it, a piece in the puzzle of this woman and her life. I actually took something from a funeral and learned from it.
This epiphany. Will forever change a little piece of who I am. And I owe it to her and I thank her for it.