Into The Deep

When you get to this part of life, one of the hard things is feeling like you are going to disappear... as though you are slipping down into deep waters with only a few temporary ripples to mark your place.  And the fact is that life does go on without us.  Kids keep on growing, people keep on working and playing and sorrowing and rejoicing, just as they did before.  

Of course that is a good thing.  I suppose a few of us might not mind too much if everyone else wandered around beating their breasts and shedding ashcloth everywhere, mourning us forever - it takes all sorts.  On the whole, though, I imagine that would make for a pretty dreary neighborhood.

But it's hard not to feel left behind.  And it's hard to feel that you might have been rather superfluous, that you didn't accomplish the things you intended, and you didn't leave something of real meaning to mark your passing through the world.

I can't say that I've resolved these fears and feelings for myself,  or that I have anything of wisdom to impart.  All I can say is that when it all comes down to the end, what we are talking about is trying to find immortality not of the body, but of something more meaningful.  And setting the matter of personal spirituality aside for a moment, I can't help but think that the answer lies somewhere between how people remember us and how we touch those people's lives.

It would be easy, perhaps, to glibly say that of course people remember us fondly, and that should satisfy... but I'm not sure it is enough.  After all, fondness is fairly easy for many of us, and ease tends to rob things of meaning and value.  It's meaning that we're looking for, and that requires something extra.  It requires us to invest enough of ourselves in something or someone that we make a difference - that our touch causes something to happen that wouldn't have happened if we had behaved differently, or if we hadn't been there.

The hard thing is that for many - perhaps most - we don't get to see that change of direction, if it happened at all.  So unless we are the sort of person who gains fame or notoriety by our actions, we are largely unaware of our degree of influence in the world.

I suppose that's another type of faith we have to cultivate, along with whatever religious beliefs we hold dear.  The faith that all the little investments we make in our friends and family, along with the (sometimes accidental) investments that we make in our workplaces and our clubs and our neighborhood schools, that those investments will make some positive difference in the world, and that they will continue to make that difference long after we are gone.

We can only hope... and keep investing for as long as we can.  


Delighted Hands said...

The age old fears of 'what does all this really mean.' You are right-we do have to ask the right questions and settle these in our own minds.
Like parenting-we don't get to know the impact of our efforts for a long time.

Nancy K. said...

I have a feeling that you greatly underestimate the size of your "ripples"!

I know that I will never forget you.


KOB said...

One candle kindles another--maybe by ourselves we are tiny flames but together we are a mighty bonfire. Shine on...