Death leaves you empty. There’s a large hole that the departed once filled. The pain is in your heart and often it feels as if you can’t go on. But you do. You stumble, get up again and take a few more steps. The next time maybe you can get to the corner without tripping and finally, you can make it around the block.
I remember when I was entering middle age, my mother would call and ask if I remembered so-and-so. Usually, this was a person from “back home” where I grew up – another state and decades ago. Most often they were good friends of my mother with whom she worked or socialized.
“Yeah, Mom. Sure,” and a vague picture would come to mind.
“Well, they died.”
“I’m sorry to hear the sad news.”
And over the next few decades, there were many similar calls until my own mother passed.
Now I’m of the age where it’s my friends and colleagues who are dying. It’s tough. Occasionally it’s me making that phone call. Perhaps it helps when my kids listen, they’re a safe audience and quietly offer their condolences. They know it’s a tradition my mother started.
But I’m trying to find ways to fill the holes that are there. So I work on remembering the good things I’ve learned from the departed and the good times – or tough times – we shared. Maybe it’s a meal we prepared together or a joke passed back and forth. It helps.
And now there’s also the reality of my own mortality. We’ve social media, but they’re far from perfect. I see birthday announcements on Facebook for my stepfather who passed years ago at 100. Great guy. Now he’d be about 110. I don’t know, but Facebook is counting. I’ve lots of good memories of times together. It’s not necessary for me to make any phone calls. But it got me thinking about my “legacy.” Yup. My wife and I did have an old will be brought up to date, made sure all the power of attorneys are in place, and that funeral arrangements were made and paid. So in that sense, we’re ready to go. There’s still that fear even knowing we’re not immortal and remembering the poem by Shelley, “Ozymandias”
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias Pharaoh Rameses II (reigned 1279-1213 BCE). According to the OED, the statue was once 57 feet tall., King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
I know that funds and gifts are soon spent out, and yet I do have the desire to leave something behind, sort of the flip side of remembering family and friends who have passed.
And then I knew, at a deep level, that there are things that live on and that echo forever: Good deeds and acts of kindness! They may be nameless and forgotten as those involved also eventually pass. However, the echoes of even the smallest gesture of kindness, even a smile, live on forever. They become part of the fabric of the Universe as we would have it. I listen to those echoes of friends and acquaintances that are no longer with me. And like them, I try to add good deeds and acts of kindness to my legacy. It helps.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at email@example.com.
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