Updated: Jul 29, 2021
I’m finishing my third book and it’s an interesting one. It’s a compilation of messages from over 100 souls who decided to pay a visit to me over a four-month period, just after “HI MOMMA, IT’S ME” was published in October 2020. Each person conveying their wisdom and perceptions was legendary and some were actually icons in their field of endeavor. What was fascinating about the process of putting this book together is how, when I heard their names, something flashed in my mind about each one of them. Then, one actually posed the question, how will you be remembered?
What a great blog, I thought, so here we are. This could actually turn into a fun parlor game or a process by which you could entertain yourself on a long airplane flight. Let me give you a few examples. When I think of Michael Jackson, I think of when he did the moon walk, how he screwed-up his face with surgery and of course, Neverland. When I think of Ethel Merman, I think of her performances in Hello Dolly and Auntie Mame on Broadway as well as her singing, “There’s No Business, Like Show Business”. Dean Martin is simple - a glass of booze in his hand and strolling the stage in his tuxedo with a big grin on his face. Mahatma Gandhi would be striding through the streets of India wrapped in his dhoti and wearing his round wire glasses. Abraham Lincoln, of course with his stove pipe hat and freeing the slaves, as President, after the civil war. The list can continue forever. There is no question people have their memorable signatures.
Some memories are built on what each person did professionally, others describe their physical features and still others focus on their personal behavior or quirky traits that stick in one’s mind. Regardless, with any person you’d mention – famous, infamous or unknown - there are always dominant traits or behaviors that stick.
I find normal people are like that, as well. Sometimes it is as simple as a word that describes them – like my neighbor Bernie Kramer. Now, Bernie won’t go down in history for anything and likely only a few dozen friends will actually remember him fondly, but Bernie is one of a kind; Bernie is an angel – so is his wife, Mary. They’re both about 5-years older than I am and are my very special neighbors. They watch out for me, give without asking for a thing in return and always live with cheerful hearts.
Bernie is most certainly an angel because who else would be my personal handyman fixing a sprinkler leak, I didn’t even know I had, be there for electrical, plumbing, carpentry – absolutely anything, without charging a thing! Mary checks in on me if she doesn’t see me for a few days, knits little caps for infants in the hospital and Christmas stockings and christening gowns for her more than a dozen grand and great grandchildren. Mary also goes to Mass every morning but isn’t a professional Catholic – she’s the real deal, living her faith – not preaching it. Anyway, both are definitely angels.
I’m sure you can single out a number of people in your life, as well, who’s dominant traits stand out: a friend you can never get off the phone – even after 2-hours; the one with a natural wit and amazing sense of humor; another with the tender heart and still another always has time for others and is an incredible listener. The beauty, the generous spirit, the car nut and the rescuer – we all have people in our lives like that. It’s especially fascinating when one begins to do this exercise with family members. If the trait is compatible, we see more of the person but if the trait is incompatible, we see them less.
When you begin to look at yourself and think about how people might describe you – are you fairly content or is there a slight wince? Well, if it’s the latter, there’s still a chance to correct some of those significant flaws, so you end up with a more positive life story. Some of it might happen normally with age but for others, shifting into a state of unconditional love can make a huge difference.
In aging, there’s a natural shift typically with men, when their levels of testosterone become reduced. Guys who were big flirts, somehow in their 70’s and beyond all of a sudden become disinterested. Tough guys who were rough talkers and poised for a brawl seem to mellow-out with a few years on them. A few older men who’ve had a series of small strokes can become really mean and cantankerous. Yes, even when we are older, we can change.
I don’t think the shift is as dramatic with women but the drive to achieve and the tendency to push ahead slows down and people wear-on much easier in later years. Grandparents are much more fun to snuggle with than that crazy Aunt who owns two businesses and can never sit still. Thank goodness, age can affect some change.
The biggest catalyst though, for the most significant and memorable changes occur when a person surrenders to love. That can happen at any age. When they drop the judgment of others, quit being critical of life and begin to see the glass half full. When beauty, nature and the little nuances of existence begin to be appreciated and our hearts open to love our fellow man, every one of them. That shift is noticeable, and I promise you that the way you were the last 10-years of your life - will be the way people who know you remember you - at the end.
Now, the big and obvious question – how do you want to be remembered?