Over the past weekend, my wife and I visited her Mom & Dad and my Dad in the cemetery. They were wonderful individuals who lived rich, long lives. They were examples, of how to live, for both of us to follow.
As we walked to their grave sites, you couldn’t help but notice other tombstones with names and dates on them. One person died in a war. Another at the age of 40. This person died at age 70. Names that meant nothing to either one of us but present during our brief walk.
I wondered what their lives were like. What did they do? How big was their family? Were they tall or short? Educated or hard working? Were they born in this country or did they travel from afar to make America their home?
In reflecting on these thoughts, what occurred to me was that I find that the popular advice given to think of the end before you live your life is misguided. For during our brief walk in the cemetery, I saw that few care about the end. The tears had dried up leaving only a stone to display a person’s name.
You see it matters what what we do today.
What we do each of our days given to us on earth.
How we act. How we love. To whom we show compassion and patience. To be present in our children’s lives, our aging parents’ lives, and in our friends’ lives. Showing forgiveness and being vulnerable to reach out and touch our own humanity through our connection with others.
The cemetery with its dry grass and creeping weeds levels the playing field for all of us. Rich. Poor. Smart. Not lucky. Lucky. This list could go on. Everyone is the same in a cemetery. Only a name on a stone with a couple of dates if we’re lucky.
Life is not meant to create tears when walking through a cemetery. Life is meant to create tears when death takes away something of real value that you felt intensely and benefited from greatly through human connection with others.
Engaging people by meeting their humanity and vulnerability with your love, compassion and forgiveness is what binds us together much more closely. It has immeasurable value when allowed to be shared openly.
A flood of tears, by others at the time of our death, is the only way to confirm how much our life had meaning and value.
A value that takes a lifetime to create and will never be measured while we are alive.