Last week, I attended the funeral of a friend of mine’s adult son and hugged her while her tears fell on my cheek. Today, I went to the memorial of a friend I have known for 40 years while my own tears fell down my cheek.
Death reminds us of life. It’s that standard jolt that spurs us to appreciate what and who we have in our lives, tell our loved ones we love them, analyze how we are living, think about what we will regret in the future and use this as a chance to change things, consider forgiving a wrong that doesn’t seem so big now.
“Life’s too short” comes to mind again and is whispered in conversations with others and in our own heads. It spurs those feelings of loss and emptiness that make us sad on one hand, and desperate for the affirmation of love and comfort on the other. Why does it always take something big like a death to remind us of things we should exercise and take daily stock of in the first place?
Because it does. That’s just who we are. That could be an excuse, but it seems to apply across the board. So we feel the emptiness and mourn the loss, but we also have a duty to celebrate that person’s life and how they affected others’ lives, including our own.
I met Darrell when I was around 10 years old and he was around 26 and a radio personality at KONO, where my mom worked. At that time, he was “huggable lovable Darrell Taylor”, which schtick he would morph as the years went on. We all knew he had a golden radio voice; he had been on the air in many states for decades. We knew he had a quirky sense of humor. And we knew he had a giant smile that could not be duplicated and will be missed.
However, others who knew him, even for as many years as I did, were just as surprised at some of the things we learned about him at today’s memorial. We found out not only had he been in the Navy, but he had served three tours in Vietnam! And he “drove” the assault boat, or whatever its correct technical name is. (And probably “driving” isn’t the correct technical term for a water vessel either.) And he played the ukelele, or attempted to. But he tried it. Like he tried many things, because he was adventurous and fun-spirited. And that was only one of the lessons, as was pointed out, that Darrell’s life taught us.
That, I believe, is another duty we have: to acknowledge the lessons our loved ones taught us by the way they lived, and remember them. In addition to the sadness we feel, which is natural, and the usual aforementioned reminders that come to mind, which are typical, the lessons we keep with us honor them along the way.
We laughed often during the memorial today. In spite of the loss and the sadness, there was cause for celebration—for the life he lived, and the way he touched us all. And for the lessons he taught us simply by being him.
By simply being you, what lessons will you leave with others when you are gone?