A LEGACY of WORDS and A CHALLENGE TO YOU
With advancing age one is confronted with the passing of contemporaries and every funeral is a time for reflection on the life and time of the deceased. From my experience all such sad occasions have one thing in common in that they afford an opportunity to recount events and reflect on the relationship of the departed from the perspective of family members and close friends. What is lacking in many instances is an appreciation of the experiences and achievements that gave meaning to their journey. It is also sad to say that on many occasions we get a belated insight into the subject of our sorrow that was denied us while they were still alive. This was apparent when we took leave of Annalie, who unbeknown to most of us was adventurous, widely travelled with a free spirit, who in her younger years had lived life to the full. This was not apparent from her reserved demeanour and in the way she related to us.
It is a sad fact of life that many of us know little of the achievements that gave meaning to our immediate forebears in spite of our close relationship. Such situations are on the increase with widely dispersed family connections becoming the norm rather than the exception. In my own case the sudden death of my father when I was in my mid-teens deprived me of the opportunity to enquire more deeply into his meaningful life over a long period of academic achievement and in pursuit of humanitarian causes. The same can be said about a friend, who entrusted me, close to the time of his death, with the task of winding-up his practice as a civil engineer. Although we had known each other for many years he had never alluded to his considerable professional achievements, peer recognition and expertise, which I was able to share as his legacy.
It became the subject of a discussion with David H, who is another example of a high achiever in his branch of professional engineering and attainments in pursuit of several charitable causes. He encouraged me to draw on my own occupational and voluntary experiences as a means of influencing the next generation in their search for a meaningful career. I accepted the challenge on condition that it would allow me to concentrate on the lessons learned spread over a course of events that provided me with opportunities to maintain an equal balance between income generating and voluntary pursuits. Under normal circumstances my present state of health would have presented challenges were it not for the assistance of a hospice volunteer, who in her own right is a role model. Following her retirement at age 65, she engaged in tertiary study, completing a university degree with majors in two subjects of special interest to her.
I accepted her offer to transcribe our dialogue on what gave meaning to my life, warts and all, without any embellishments. So far we have completed three sessions of recorded interviews from which, God willing, up to thirty pages of printed text will emerge. Its main purpose is to influence younger people to consider the third sector as a viable career choice. In telling my story I also draw on the example of several role models, who influenced and guided me along the way. I have been privileged to have had the advice and assistance of several outstanding individuals and to be able to pass it on for the benefit of others.
One of my father’s early lessons was that there is good in every human being, we are all the same before God, should have equal opportunities and that every person we encounter is our better in at least one respect. It made me aware that everybody has achieved something that gave meaning to them on their life’s journey and deserves expression as their legacy to the next generation.
I challenge, particularly the older members of our congregation, to share these experiences with an offer to set space aside in this newsletter to record what really mattered for them and may not always be known to their immediate family members and close friends. Sharing these meaningful experiences and achievements will inspire others to follow suit. It may involve one incident, special relationship and/or outcome that resulted in personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement. This could be in the form of gainful occupation, community service, a creative past time, travel or sport and recreation. We all make a mark somewhere, but fail to share the experience for the benefit of others. I am convinced that this appeal for information will trigger recollections of cherished moments and events that deserve a wider audience. Moreover, it will enable us to get to know each other better and to draw on each others strengths and experiences.
I am awaiting your contributions in eager anticipation.