In case you haven’t noticed, it’s the end of October. Here in my neck of the woods, that means the rain has returned but the trees are still tenaciously wearing their robes of glorious color. It also means that homes all around are looking frightfully Halloween-y and kiddos of all ages are fantasizing about the loads of candy (and not rocks!) that await them. But there are folks who find Halloween to be more than just a few hours to don a new identity and ask for candy. For some, this is also that time of year to pay homage to the end of the growing season or the lives of those who have died.
While I was re-inserting this fellow’s head into my picket fence the other day, I found myself thinking about the dead and our interesting reaction to death in the United States. On one hand, we Americans (of the US citizen variety especially) seem to adore all things dead and creepy – just check out the number of horror and zombie movies available. And yet, death is very difficult for most Americans to talk about, especially in public. Instead, we tend to use euphemisms or avoid talking about the dead. (Unless they were a celebrity, then it appears those rules no longer apply.)
It wasn’t long into this musing of mine that I thought about something I heard Darrell Scott say last summer. Darrell Scott is the father of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine tragedy. I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Scott talk about his daughter and her life during a presentation of “Rachel’s Challenge.” And something he said struck me then and still resonates within me.
“I wish people could have mock-memorial services so they would know just how they have affected other people.”
Scott’s comment was used to illustrate his point that until Rachel’s death, her family knew very little about how she interacted with and affected other teens, most likely because either Rachel didn’t know or didn’t appreciate in just what ways she positively impacted others. If she had been present at her memorial service, she would have heard her peers talking about how she made their lives better for having been a part of their lives.
Have you ever had that macabre thought “If I died today, who would come to my funeral?” I always add this caveat, “And what would they say?”
Back when I was in the classroom, my answer would have included “students” and “she taught me a lot about English” but I’m not sure what would be said today.
But I do know what I hope would be said. I hope folks would remember me as a person who tried to make the world better, a person who lived with compassion and kindness, a person who loved laughter and music and being with family and friends. And I really hope my temper and lousy dancing skills would be forgotten.
This has been a challenging week for me and more than one kind soul noticed I was struggling and then reached out to me. It is amazing how just a smile from the cashier can sometimes brighten your whole day. Even more powerful are those “are you okay?” moments from folks who walk your path along side you.
Please do not underestimate your ability to make the world a better place, one person at a time. More powerful than any superhero’s power is the human capacity to care. Luckily, no cape or fancy flying machine is needed. Only your human heart.