I have been taking quite a few walks through the woods lately. As I look at the beauty of leafless trees in winter, I notice the many dead trees that are still providing homes and food for a myriad of birds and insects.
While trees such as this are certainly dead, their usefulness beyond the life is never ending. Indeed, even once a dead tree truly decomposes, it becomes soil, helping to nourish other plant and insect life, and yes, even more trees.
As many of my readers know, I lost a friend recently due to her tragic death. Yesterday was her memorial service, and despite the pervasive sadness in the standing room only crowd of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, there was a palpable commitment by those who spoke and everyone who listened, that her life will carry on in our memories as well as through how she will continue to inspire us to be truly good people, as we continue to live our lives.
It is a customary Jewish response to say to those who are grieving a loss of someone, “May their memory be a blessing.” This saying evokes the potential that each and every one of us has to live eternally if one or more of those who remain living after we are gone, remembers the blessing that we were when we were alive.
Of course, vivid memories of a dear one who has passed will fade with time, and after a generation or two, they may appear to be gone completely. However, since each generation is impacted by the prior one, I believe that those blessed memories live on eternally.
When I was 7 years old, my brother, Dougie, died when he suffocated overnight while having seizure. He was 3 years old. Of course, my memories of him are fleeting and are necessarily only of him as a sweet and cute toddler. For a number of years after his death, I believed that his soul was watching over me. That belief faded with time, and now it is truly impossible to imagine what he would be like as a 56 year old man if he were still alive.
However, I do not believe that it is coincidental that after 10 years working as a civil rights attorney, advocating for the elderly and victims of discrimination, that I became the disability rights lawyer that I still am today. While I did not consciously decide that I would become a disability rights lawyer because my brother’s disability killed him, looking back on my career’s trajectory, I cannot deny the influence that my brother’s passing had on my decision to become and remain a dogged advocate for children with disabilities. In this way, for me, my brother Dougie continues to have an eternal life.
Each of us impacts many other people: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes even total strangers we may encounter in public. Every one of those impacts has repercussions that can ripple outwards, sometimes for generations. Let us live our lives with kindness and positivity so those impacts ripple in a positive manner for all eternity.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact me, Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting my web site: Systems Change Consulting.