Reflections on a woman I never knew, whose light touched my life today

This is a bit complicated. Usually I like to elaborate on a simple subject, or tell a short story, but this has been on my mind today and I just feel like I need to talk about it. Please excuse if it doesn’t all flow very well

So it’s National Suicide Prevention Week. When I saw that, the first thing I thought of was my dear cousin, who left us in March 2011. Initially I thought of writing a small memorial post for him, but I don’t want to be depressing. I know he certainly wouldn’t want that.

However, it did make me want to write something, I just wasn’t sure what, exactly. Then, I saw this obituary, which made national news because of its unusual and touching nature.

That got me to thinking about my own mortality, and how not all that long ago I was at a low point in my life, where I wasn’t exactly suicidal, but I found myself hoping to die. Every day. Hoping that something would happen to me, to end my existence. I saw opportunity everywhere, and tried a lot of dangerous things. It was a dark time and I did climb out of it, and honestly, I like to pretend that point in my life never happened. But we all have pasts that we must face, we all have regrets, and we all have to just get over it. If you’re always looking backwards, you’ll never move forward.

I’m past that now, though, and that isn’t what this post is about.

Anyway, reading that obituary made me wonder about the mark I have left – will leave upon the world. What kind of legacy will I leave behind when I’m gone? That woman, Pink, as she is called by her surviving relatives, sounds like a very extraordinary individual. Her mark is in the love she left behind, everywhere and in every one she ever spoke to.

I’m so very guilty of many petty crimes that Pink rose above.

Never say mean things about rotten people, instead think of them as “poor souls who we should pray for.”

I definitely always say mean things about rotten people. I wish zombification on every horrible driver, I regularly imagine global catastrophes hitting obnoxious crowds, I internally curse every jerk I see in my daily interactions with people. Never, and I mean never, have I pitied those people for their ignorance and lack of respect for anyone else. But what a lofty idea, what a beautiful thought. It makes me think of the book A Little Princess, and how when I was little I wanted to be the sort of person that Sara Crewe was, always behaving like a princess would. A real princess would never say mean things about rotten people, no matter how terribly they behaved. Princesses are above that sort of thing.

Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or the summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is “Peat Moss”. Offer to help anyone struggling to get their kids in a car, into a shopping cart or across a parking lot. Give to every single charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online.

Wow. That’s a tall order. I’m convinced that this woman was a saint.

Are we such a jaded society that we no longer believe in truly good people, who do truly good things? I do my “good deed per day”, most days. I give myself a pat on the back every time too. Yeah, self, there’s some karma points. But now I’m thinking that maybe to make the world a better place, I should become a better person. Not that I think I’m a bad person. I’m not. I’m actually one of the best people that I know. But maybe this world needs people who lead by example, like Pink; instead of people who preach their morality to everyone else.

Take magazines you’ve already read to your doctors’ waiting rooms for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label … “Because if someone wants to contact me that would be nice.”

Ok, so I don’t actually ever get physical magazines, but this is such a nice thought.

Growing up, there is a mantra drilled into the head of every child. Don’t talk to strangers. Granted, this is pretty good advice for a small child. As an adult, we have to talk to strangers all the time, but we keep the conversation minimal. I don’t start a conversation with anyone I don’t already know at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, not even at social places like beaches, restaurants, bars, sports games, whatever. I keep to my group of family or friends and, I guess honesty is the best policy; I secretly watch and judge everyone else there. We do this all the time. We call it people-watching. You spot a person, or a couple, or a family, and you make up an imaginary life for them inside your head, based on what you see. But you never go up to them and ask to see how their real life compares.

I just think that it’s rare to meet and cultivate a friendship with someone who is not in your pre-established social circles these days. It’s kind of sad, really. So I might make it a point to say hello to people I don’t know now and then. If they’re not interested in a conversation, I won’t push the issue. But you never know if you’ll meet someone who enriches your life in some way. And that would be nice.

It’s especially wonderful that this woman, though I never even met her, has got me rethinking my own bad behavior towards others, and the world in general. Even after she’s gone, she’s touching lives.

What a legacy. What a saint. What a wonderful person to want to emulate.

None of us are perfect. But we can try to be our best, and that’s all that we can do. The legacy we leave behind is the lives we’ve touched, the people we’ve helped, the way we’re remembered as a person, and the lessons we pass on to future generations. The more love you put into the world, the more you’ll get back.

Those who’ve taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the garbage collector and the mail carrier on a hot day, that every baby will be kissed and every person in the nursing home will have a visitor, that the hungry will have a sandwich and the visitor will have a warm bed and a soft nightlight…

Your legacy is when the love you leave behind continues to live after you’re gone.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on a woman I never knew, whose light touched my life today

  1. This was really powerful to me. I’ve found myself in a dark place for the past few months. I’ve spent so much time focusing on the negative and I feel like this is unlike me. Yesterday, I woke up thinking about my Daddy. He has preached to me from day 1: Give to others kindness, respect, and anything they ask for that you might be able to provide and someday that will come back to you tenfold. I think that if I have ten people in my life that I really meant something to, that will be enough for me. Ten people to say, “She really was a good person.” I think that’s all that we can ask for in life – to be missed when we’re gone.

    • You are a really good person, Phoenix.
      You are right, though. That is all we can ask for. I just hope that when I’m gone, the lessons I learned will be passed on to new generations, and that maybe I left the world a little better than I came into it.

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