“The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.” If you remember your high school Shakespeare studies, you know that Marc Anthony was talking about Caesar when he made that statement, an oration meant to change the people’s attitude toward Caesar.
I don’t often disagree with Shakespeare, but in this case I have to disagree, at least with Marc Anthony. Part of the reason is that this Memorial Day I have just returned from a very moving ceremony which included a Marine Color Guard, a 21-gun salute, bagpipers playing Amazing Grace, the most beautiful performance of the National Anthem I have ever heard, and an outstanding retired Air Force speaker.
During that ceremony, it was obvious that the good people do lives after them as we were reminded in many ways that our freedom and way of life depends on the actions of people who died or suffered or just fought for our country. I think soldiers, including those currently serving, have to believe that what they do will have a positive influence on their country and the people of both the present and the future.
From the ceremony I went to decorate the graves of my parents and my great grandparents and grandparents, and my thoughts along that line continued. All of these people made mistakes, of course, but what lives on is the good they gave to the world and to many people including me. I would not have life without them, but I also would not have so much more – my love of everything from education to music to the mountains and more important, my Christian faith.
The bad things and bad times in my life have not defeated me because of the faith that they shared, encouraged, and exemplified. Jesus’ love and words were part of my life from birth and baptism through all of my growing years into adulthood and to the present, thanks to men and women who instilled and nurtured faith. This Memorial Day I brought them lilacs and honeysuckle, but more than that I brought them undying gratitude, knowing that the good they did lives after them and the Savior they loved gives us all the way to see each other again.
At the graduation ceremony at Forsyth High School yesterday, we presented the Josh Heser Memorial Scholarship in our son’s memory to a very fine young man who will be attending trade school. That makes seven scholarships to young people who are now pursuing their careers and let us know every now and then that they appreciate the “leg up” in getting their education.
I am not “tooting our horn” – these scholarships are available because people throughout four counties in Montana who loved Josh plus friends and relatives from all over the United States contributed money to endow the scholarships. This choice was made because Josh himself got an Across America scholarship which helped him to go to diesel mechanic school.
As anyone who has read my book or blog knows, I am definitely an advocate for organ donation and like to encourage people to sign up as organ donors because we know a number of people who are alive because of donated organs. However, I am also very aware that some people cannot donate organs and other people have reasons, including religious ones, why they will not do donation. That is their right, and I would never imply that others’ choices are not worthy.
The important thing here is that we understand that in many ways loved ones can “live on” through things that we recognize and/or encourage. Scholarships are one of my favorite ways, simply because I love to see young people get a chance to pursue their dreams and to consider themselves worthy members of society. All of us needs to remember that the quality of our lives is affected by society, and the more people with fulfilled dreams and promising futures, the healthier society is.
Inn what other ways can people’s legacy live on? My mother was a dedicated Sunday School teacher, and we used memorial money for her toward the purchase of Bibles for third and fourth graders at the church where she and Dad attended. When a little boy recognized the footprints on the cover of the paperback Bibles as “Thy word is a lamp onto my feet and a light onto my path,” I could see my mother smiling.
Assuaging grief by doing something in a loved one’s name has to make Jesus smile. Amen.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, of course, and I hope that all of the mothers who read this blog were honored and happy yesterday. I realize that we mothers all have times when we deal with not-so-happy relationships and experiences, but for the most part I hope that most mothers are glad they “signed on” for this role.
In studying the Bible related to traits which help us to cope with life’s challenges, I was looking at the lives of various Biblical people who displayed resilience. Resilience is an essential quality often thought of as flexibility or the ability to “bounce back.” I have found that it is far more than that. Resilience is a quality dependent upon faith which enables us to forge positive lives in the midst of negative experiences.
One Biblical character who displayed resilience was a young woman who found herself talking to an angel and making a choice which would put her at the mercy of her fiancé and her society as well as her God. I’m speaking of Mary, who at a very young age accepted pregnancy, carrying the Son of God, doing something with total belief when the situation was beyond human belief.
Once she “signed on,” two major things would come into her life. First there was absolute joy – joy passing understanding, as she give birth to Jesus and was witness to His babyhood, His first steps, His first words, His growth and learning. What an amazing adventure Mary was part of with this baby/child/teenager/young adult who would be His people’s Savior!
The second major thing of course, was sorrow. She “pondered in her heart” from the very beginning the idea that her heart would be broken before her motherhood was complete. Many mothers like me have to face the deaths of children of various ages, but can you imagine witnessing your son’s crucifixion? Also, to listen to Him consign your care to His friend before He died? The sorrow would be limitless, yet we also know that Mary knew of His resurrection and His return to the Father and saw the return of her joy in salvation.
We mothers (and fathers) would do well to emulate a person who accepted God’s will with its accompanying joy and sorrow and the resilience to praise His name in all things.
I’m sure that all of you have moments when you are forced to examine or re-examine attitudes or life itself. I had such an experience driving home recently, and I want to share some thoughts with you. The day actually began with an appointment and then a very nice lunch with my beloved brother and then a bridal shower for a very special young friend.
However, at that event I spent time with a woman who has coped with a crippling disease most of her life and was dependent on a walker. She had actually dared -- after three years of caregiving with a loved one dealing with cancer as well as diabetes, loss of a foot and rehabilitation – to leave him at a bookstore temporarily and attend an event on her own.
At that same event I was aware that the bride’s mother was unable to attend because after years of coping with multiple sclerosis, she is less and less able to communicate or to go out in public. She will attend a small family wedding ceremony but not the regular wedding itself because crowds and pressure are beyond her ability to cope.
They are all in my prayers, of course. But my drive home included much reflection as well as prayer. I realized first that I was able to drive my car the 100 miles home, something I take for granted as much as walking out the front door. Beyond that, of course, I have a busy schedule which takes me to multiple event in multiple places. How often do I thank God?
During that drive, I realized that when my husband and I have periods of difficulty, dealing with his sporadic sciatica and lower back pains and dealing with my neuropathy in my feet, we tend to see them as major. Reflecting on the lives of people dealing with major illnesses and conditions, people being limited to the point of not attending events I would not consider missing, suddenly what my husband and I cope with seemed so minor.
What would Jesus say about all this? During this Easter season, I have spoken of His compassion, and we see that compassion in all of His dealing with people. Jesus above all others would react with understanding and compassion for all that we deal with. Hallelujah!
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.