Eulogy as reminder

I recently heard a sermon about the importance of looking back at life from the perspective of how we want to be remembered.  It’s so stark to ask, “how would I live my life differently if I cared only about the things that really matter” that it can seem like a chasm too broad to cross.

Maybe, but occasionally the right reminder at the right moment is enough to help us reorient, to make one decision, big or small, a little differently.  So here goes.

Here’s an excerpt from Ted Kennedy Jr’s eulogy for his father.  Whatever you think of Senator Kennedy, the memories one leaves one’s son (or a spouse, or a friend, or someone we see in passing every day) is the real mirror on our lives – how we carry ourselves in the world, the values we espouse, and how we shine our own light on others.

When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with bone cancer and a few months after I lost my leg, there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington D.C. My father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway. And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg and the hill was covered with ice and snow and it wasn’t easy for me to walk. And the hill was very slick and as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice and I started to cry and I said “I can’t do this.” I said, “I’ll never be able to climb that hill.” And he lifted me in his strong, gentle arms and said something I’ll never forget. He said “I know you’ll do it, there is nothing you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.”

Sure enough, he held me around my waist and we slowly made it to the top, and, you know, at age 12 losing a leg pretty much seems like the end of the world, but as I climbed onto his back and we flew down the hill that day I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be OK. You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable and it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event that is one of my father’s greatest lessons. He taught me that nothing is impossible.

That’s a lesson worth remembering.

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