I recently attended memorial services for two dear friends. Their untimely and tragic passing has affected all who knew them, giving us reason to pause and reflect.
While every one of us has our own life experiences through which we've grown and changed, there are few events in our lives that have more direct impact than the loss of a loved one — a family member, friend or colleague who has touched our life in special ways.
This is especially true when the death occurs in an instant or at a distance, and we do not have the opportunity to express what we really feel about them.
Carmen Langston accomplished so much as a social worker and fundraiser for the Children's Home Society in Tallahassee. A dedicated wife and mother, she attracted others with an infectious smile, caught us up with her positive attitude and set an example by giving her all for a cause or a person she believed in. Carmen's dedication to finding permanent, loving families for children available for adoption was her most intense professional passion. Every couple who came in contact with Carmen understood that her prime focus was what was best for the well-being of everyone in the family. Carmen understood the vital importance of emotional ties, and what she preached she practiced every day of her life. She loved sincerely and was so sincerely loved by many.
Randy Roberts was a force of nature. As head lobbyist for Publix Super Markets, he strode the halls of Florida's Capitol with class and charisma. His brief 36 years were lived with the credo, "If you have to choose between having fun and getting the job done, do both!" He believed that no matter how large the table, every person in every seat mattered. His family and friends had no choice but to love him. His "lovability" was without boundary and no one could escape his persuasive powers. Randy performed good deeds without seeking recognition. A brief word from Randy in the ear of power made a great difference.
When I imagine a world without wonderful people like Carmen and Randy, it's a challenge to be optimistic. They both were deep wells of sincerity and generosity. So many of us ladled our own portion of their magical concoction, yet the supply seemed to never be reduced.
What is the lesson we learn in saying farewell to beloved friends and family members?
First, let's resolve to express our feelings for others when they are here to hear us. Sharing our thoughts about their importance to us is an everyday opportunity, not to be missed or forgotten. Make that call, send that card and letter, and share that moment of respect and recognition.
Second, let's appreciate the power we draw from those who set great examples by their actions for good, their commitments to causes we care about, and their effectiveness that brings results.
Finally, let's admit that life is 100 percent fatal. While we may believe in a spiritual forever, the reality of life's limitations requires us to make the most of who we are and what affect we have on others.
Think about legacy every day. Considering how we'll be remembered may be seem morbid, but contemplating our own eulogy may be a source of inspiration and empowerment to live our lives with even greater purpose.
Advocating for ourselves and others is not just an opportunity — it's an obligation.
Jack Levine of Tallahassee is founder of the 4Generations Institute and can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]