I was just reviewing the list of blogs I subscribe to, and ran across the last entry of a writer friend who is no longer with us. If you want to read it, you can find it here. Marsha was thoughtful, a fine writer and teacher, and a good person to have in your life. She brought the pleasures of poetry and literature into the minds and hearts of thousands of students. We all miss her. A lot.
Reading her poignant entry got me to thinking about the idea of a “life well-lived.” Who decides about that? I am agnostic, so I don’t look forward to some Great Beyond. As far as I know, this is it — the whole show, not a dress rehearsal. (Although I generally hate being wrong, I wouldn’t mind being mistaken about that. However, logic prevails.) That being the case, the only life I expect to have beyond the grave is in the memories of people, slowly to fade until the wisps are carried away by the winds of time; incorporated as a tiny part of the whole, but unnoticed down the years by those to come.
So, unless I want to indulge in magical thinking I have to accept that the sum of my life is, perforce, my legacy as well. And I have to ask myself whether I’ve lived that life so as to leave something worthwhile behind, however ephemeral. There have certainly been times when I wouldn’t have wanted to look very hard at that question. However, I’ve managed over the past 22 — almost 23 — years of clean and sober living to amass a record that I can look back on and recognize a totality of which I need not be ashamed. Whether that would be the summation of others is none of my business. We live in our own reality, and what’s going on in someone else’s is not our concern.
However, I think it behooves all of us to occasionally look back and think of our lives to date, and decide if they’re something we can be satisfied with. If we feel as though we’re on the right track, maybe we can attend to the details a bit more closely. And if it seems as though we are a bit short, then maybe we need to sit back and consider how we can re-map our journey. Perhaps our criterion should be something like, “Have I helped others as much as they’ve helped me.”
I don’t know. What do you think?