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Not their death, but their life

By: Dee-Ann Schwanke

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 08, 2014 06:00 am

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Inevitably our lives are painfully interrupted with grief when someone close to us passes away. Death is a topic we avoid, an event we fear, yet a reality we each will experience. When we grieve the passing of someone close, we do so individually and uniquely.

A few years ago I found a leftover funeral program that eulogized an elderly Alberta farmer. It struck me that contrary to what our culture would say, it matters less how much of a celebrity a person is, and more so how much they lived a life worth celebrating. The man in the picture was compassionate, committed, kind and faithful to his family and friends. His name wonít be found in an online search engine, but he lived a life so meaningful that his understated story brought me to tears.

This canít be said about every one of us; a sad and often unstated reality. There are many stories of selfish, reckless and irresponsible people. There are others who live kindly, yet they coast through life listless and unsatisfied, never quite reaching their potential.

Our commitment to dignity and respect for individuals compels us to speak well of every person who passes. But in our efforts to honour everyone, we quietly neglect to commemorate those among us who rise above average. There are some who truly live life to the max; they commit their lives to purpose and principle, and the intentional choices they make along the way are far-reaching.

We know people like this and often they donít get recognized for the joy they create in our world. They experience life with passion, and their patience with those around them exudes peace and calm. They are living examples of empathy and goodness. They live as if their decisions in life matter. They control impulses because they understand that immediate gratification is often not the best option. When these loving people die, we are left with a profound sense of loss of their ongoing contribution to our lives.

Every one of us has our own story but some have stories nobler than our own. They are our warriors, our heroes Ė our examples. A funeral was held yesterday for such a man in our community, one so committed to his wife, children, patients and God that it is impossible to measure the loss generated by his absence. I think back a few years ago to another dear friendís passing, whose gentleness and goodness to his wife, family and friends were simply unsurpassed.

People like Jeremy and Barry leave behind more than holes in our hearts. When good people leave us we are deeply saddened and left with a feeling of profound emptiness. But they also leave behind hope and a better world. They give us inspiration and a lasting example of what we might achieve.

It is important to acknowledge we all leave a legacy that goes beyond the date on our tombstone. Some legacies are best forgotten while others live on fondly in our heart, helping to form our character. I choose to acknowledge good people, lives well lived; people with stories that inspire me to be a better person so that someday I might leave this world a better place.

Dee-Ann Schwanke is a masters student in international management.


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