And this is the last one, I promise you.
While I was in hospital a friend recommended an online series of daily meditations. Mostly, the morning ones were impossible to do as the hospital routine starts at half past five, so I mostly listened the evening ones, which were very helpful. Once, however, I managed the morning one, which talked about the importance of doing something or creating something which will survive us.
The works of great poets and writers come to mind, but how many of us will write the next David Copperfield, or Ode to Autumn? Sporting triumphs also occur: the breaking of the four-minute mile for instance. But again, how many of us are great athletes? Those people who champion great causes, like two of my heroes, William Wilberforce, who worked his whole life to abolish slavery, and Florence Nightingale who, despite poor health, did so much to set up modern nursing, may have their names down in the annals of history, but what can we do?
Shakespeare writes, “The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” For once, however, I think Shakespeare is wrong. I think the good we do can live after we have gone. Sir Terry Pratchett writes, “A man is not truly dead while his name is still spoken,” and I think that is more true. Perhaps we cannot expect our name to be remembered for hundreds or thousands of years, but to be remembered with kindness and even thankfulness after we’ve gone is surely something to strive for.
I had two grannies when I was growing up. One was my mother’s mother; the other was not a blood relation, but our cousin’s grandmother on their father’s side. Our own grandmother, on their mother's side, had died young, so this lovely lady adopted us as her honorary grandchildren.
Granny was the most lovely and loving lady you could imagine. There were always cakes in the tin and a warm welcome whenever we visited, there were small presents at Christmas and on our birthdays, and we loved her dearly. It was only when I attended her funeral, I realised how far her love extended: the church was packed, and tale after tale was told of her kindness. Her name was – and possibly still is – spoken long after her death.
I wish I could say the same of my other grandmother, but I can’t. My mother talks about her, but I don’t; there is no point in talking about unkindness.
When I announced my retirement, a couple of months ago, I was stunned to receive so many emails and letters of thanks. My clients really appreciate all that I have done for them. That will last after I’m gone and spread down through generations.
Maybe that’s what it comes down to: kindness and generosity in sharing. In my work I shared knowledge, you may share something else. And kindness: what acts of kindness from others do you recall, and what acts have you performed yourself that people will remember?
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