I wrote a post awhile back about lives well lived, and those three words have come to mind recently.
Yesterday there was a gathering, a life celebration one called it, a memorial service according to another, for a friend’s daughter. Her sudden death was far too early, just when she’d seemed to have reached precisely the place where she wanted to be as a young, talented (and tenured) professor of a subject about which she was passionate, art history.
Her family had put together posters, collages of her life, from infancy until the years before her death, and from them she beamed, always, her arm around this person or another, her smile wide and generous. She was so loved, by family, and friends, colleagues, and students, devoted and kind, bright and poised yet, as one of her friends put it, with a delightfully “punk rock soul.”
Friends gathered and many spoke, but these were not the bland empty words so often heard at these events (fill in the blanks with the deceased’s name here), but devastatingly heartfelt testimonies to the person she was. There are few people you come across who radiate all that is good in this world, and Justine was simply one of these, and how she is missed. Aching hearts, rivers of loss.
Hers was truly a life well lived, a life cut short.
Today I thought of abandoning a book I’d started reading, something I don’t like to do, feeling that somehow it is disrespectful to give up, to not allow the words to continue their path and maybe even to redeem themselves, if only in my eyes.
Some books need that, the reader’s patience and understanding. Others do not, proving their beauty, their magic in even the first few words and never losing it, despite the page or the chapter, the phrase or the word on which we might stop reading. These are rare gems, and we readers know them at once and treasure them forever.
These are the books never to be abandoned mid-way, for they hold the reader in their grasp and make one feel privileged to be there. These are the books you complete and put down with wonder and sadness, with longing and disbelief that that last period was truly the end, that there are no more words.
As I listened to the tributes, dabbing the tears from my eye (for some reason they were endless, although one at a time and only from my right eye)…
How many of us could stop our lives right now, right this very moment, and elicit such passion from our mourners? How many of us can say that we’ve lived not only fully but that not even half way along we’ve reached a place where we not only are satisfied but from which we have made a difference in so many lives?
How many of us, instead, would be full of excuses about this and that and how we’re just getting started and, well, we’ve made some mistakes, have some regrets, and we’ll get it better the next time.
There is not always a next time, which is something we often forget. It is the quality of every phrase and every day, not their length, that matters.
Oh and I do believe it—all too often it is indeed the good who die young, although I’ve yet to figure out why, not that anyone really has, or ever will.