How Will You Be Remembered?

100 years old. That is birthday the man interviewed on the radio yesterday was celebrating. It was a short, fun interview that kept a smile on my face the entire time … he still has a sense of humor and stories about life to tell. I wanted to hear more .. it is amazing to imagine all of the stories he could tell and the lessons we could all learn by talking with him.

This week, I also had the privilege of listening to a holocaust survivor share his story with a large group of students. Stephen Nasser’s story is an eyewitness account of the atrocities .. he talks for everyone that can not with a strong message to learn from history, don’t be a bystander .. do something or experience it again. My Brother’s Voice: How a Young Hungarian Boy Survived the Holocaust: A True Story, is the book he wrote about his survival and the life lessons he learned from living through that terrible, historical calamity.

Life lessons we have learned and stories about our lives are precious, one of a kind things that are gone when we are. They need to be shared. While we live, for most of us, there is a driving need and desire to find a way to preserve life stories and pass on life’s lessons. Instinctively, these are the things parents tell their children and teachers try to teach their students, so that they might benefit from our tough life lessons and perhaps avoid regrets we may have. There is something inside of us that needs to do this, however … some lessons are only learned the hard way .. by experiencing them.

This natural urge we all have to share our lives and what we have learned has other purposes as well. Such as …to leave a mark in the world, to not be forgotten, to entertain, to influence how people will remember us, or maybe just as a way to share who we were in this world. In the “olden days” people talked to and listened to each other more and shared more of their life stories with each other. Life stories told by the elders in some cultures is/was the core of their education system. Sharing ourselves and our lives is probably the most important purpose we have. We have all special talents and we have all learned important things on our life journey that are worth passing on to at least one person.

I have just about finished reading “Gilead: A Novel” by Marilynne Robinson. It is a fictional story of an old and dying preachers attempt to share who he was with his son, who is too young to understand. The preacher writes his son a journal of his life .. so that his son will know who he was in life. When I started the book, I was expecting the dying pastors words to be more “preachy” like the sermons he wrote for his congregation … full of life lessons – do’s and don’ts for his son. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that his goal in writing the journal was not to lecture his son … it was to provide an honest picture of his own life for his son – good and bad.

Ways to share life stories and beliefs are everywhere these days. Having a written or recorded version seems to have grown in importance .. Isn’t that the purpose of most blogs and personal web spaces? People see the importance of sharing and collecting these stories that reveal the essence of our lives. One example would be Story Corps which was recently in my area. It is the largest oral history project of its kind. Story Corps mission is “… to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.” While they were in my area, they recorded many life stories told by people of all ages.

“This I Believe” the NPR essay segment, which recently ended, is another example. “This I Believe” is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives. I for one, will miss this radio series .. I found the essays very interesting. People’s beliefs are archived for the future and although the radio segment has ended, the project continues.

How will people remember you? According to Danny Schmidt’s song, one way is to “Judge Me By the Company of My Friends” (Lyrics). Do our life stories and life lessons have to be written down or recorded to survive? Do our lives and how we lived with the people in it, speak for themselves? What is the best way to pass on who we were in this life and the lessons we learned?

When we leave this world, more than who we were could be lost. The unwritten story or poem, the music never composed, the painting never painted, the thoughts never shared, the ideas never realized, life lessons never passed on … all the things that each of us possess in our minds and the skills we were gifted with … we can’t share it all, as there is always something new but there is a desire to give it to someone to continue for us… many of these are internal things that usually don’t appear on a bucket list.

Every day is a gift. Just like a day wasted can not be recovered .. our life stories, life lessons, and talents can not be recovered .. they need to be shared while we are here. It is about leaving important thoughts and ideas with others so that they can continue them and grow them and they are not lost when we leave.

Or, maybe recording and sharing all of our stories and lessons are not what’s most important? Maybe what we should concentrate on is how we are living and how we are making other people’s lives better? Mother Teresa was an expert at living life with purpose and meaning .. she did not have to write her own stories down … we remember her for how she lived.

There, I think I have just talked my way around a circle of thoughts. More contemplation is needed (to be added to at a later date)

What untold stories and lessons do you have? How do you want people to remember/know you? What unfinished projects are in your life that only you can finish? And, how are you going to share it all?

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~ by bearyweather on May 6, 2009.

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