Everyone wants to know, deep within, that their time on earth meant something to others.
That their being here mattered.
For some, it is through their betterment of the immediate world around them.
Think Mother Theresa with orphans in India on a grand scale, or a local community activitist, environmentalist or tireless fundraiser for the homeless, needy and neglected on the other end.
For others, it is through their accomplishments in discovery, trade, commerce, science, medicine, leadership, governance, literature, music, the arts.
Across the ages, people have made their fortunes, and then worked actively to use their riches to solve problems, eliminate impediments, eradicate diseases, lessen misery and embue hope.
Why? Not simply because it is needed, but also for the desire to ‘give back’.
To leave the world better than they found it.
And no doubt, because there is a part of them that wants to be remembered for their good deeds helping mankind.
Cynics may spew their snide comments about undoing any harm they caused, paying for sins known and unknown, hoping to get into heaven (or at least avoid the alternative).
But the truth is that we all wish to do or have something that shows we existed, we were here, we were of consequence.
For most of us, we do this through the positive ripples we make in the lives of others. We are linked through birth or circumstance to our families, extended relatives, colleagues and friends.
If we are completely honest with ourselves, as our time on earth nears its end we come to a start truth; deep in our souls, we realize that in a few short decades no one will likely know that we ever existed.
So what matters to us is being remembered as a loving spouse, nurturing parent, dutiful child, supportive sibling, good friend. That in the smallest yet deepest of ways, we were important to the people around us.
What has me thinking these thoughts of mortality, rememberance and legacy on a quiet Sunday morning?
The truth is, three separate but related thoughts.
The first is that it’s Mother’s Day, and my beautiful mom is an ocean away. God willing, we’ll Skype later today and I will tell her again how much I love her, how grateful I am to have her as my mother.
The second is my father, whose face I will see for the first time in almost six weeks. He has been ill and hospitalized, and has a challenging road ahead of him.
We’ve been in touch, but I want to see him today, hear his voice, talk with him. I want to savor seeing him back home sitting by my mother, as I have so often over the past few years during our Skype sessions. I want to tell him I love him, and that I can’t wait to see him in person next month.
Both of these are superimposed on top of the third thing: a thread of conversation that has been drifting through my mind for awhile now. It came, of all places, from Elske, Donna and Catherine at the Expatriate Archive Centre here in The Hague.
It’s about putting your hand in water; when you remove it and the surface stills, what’s to show that you were ever there? It’s about rootlessness, collective memory, and having your voice validated.
My parents exist through their love for me, and mine of them. Through their children and grandchildren and now their first great-grandchild, through their dear friends and devoted members of their community. Through the memories and experiences we’ve shared, and the ones we’ve yet to make.
[Image credit: Imma_Thai at Morguefile.com]