Carrol Vertrees: What will people say when we have gone?
Carrol Vertrees August 3, 2012 8:34PM
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:07AM
It has been 10 years now, since my sister, some years younger than I, wrote a nice poetic thing called “When I Have Gone.”
She wonders, in her eloquent way, what people will remember about her, “If they will remember my life for the roads not traveled, the songs no one heard me sing, the mountains not climbed, the college degrees I did not earn …” If she is suggesting that all of us should ask questions like that, she probably is right.
We probably wonder what people really think of us, how they will remember us. We may never know, but I am not dead certain about that.
She sent something else that makes me wonder. She reminded me that “Old age and wisdom do not always arrive together. Sometimes old age comes alone.” Why did she aim that one at me?
I am well into old age, of course, and she is getting close, but when she wrote that, she was, well, relatively young. I think she is getting wiser as she ages, but I am not sure about me.
I guess that we all should think hard about what kind of a memory trail we are leaving — maybe that is part of wisdom.
Is what we accomplish all that people remember? Is it the failures, the faults, the roads not traveled, mountains not climbed? Small, thoughtful acts that make people smile or feel better? Sorting that out may be part of the wisdom thing. Maybe we will be remembered because we tried to climb mountains.
In my aging state, I worry a bit about what kind of a mark I have made — the need to be appreciated is inherent. The question is how to deal with it.
Sometimes when I am in a snit, feeling lonely or just wondering about what life is all about, I think that if anyone plans to say something about me at a service when I leave, I should be allowed to see if the remarks make me look good. Otherwise, I just may not go. Has that ever been done before?
Perhaps it is better if we just go and let the record stand, hoping that we are doing it right.
When readers tell me that some words I wrote touched or amused them, I am glad, and it is not just vanity. It reminds me that we are all in this together, facing similar challenges, enjoying similar blessings — a kind of brotherhood, marching through life. We need one another.
We all need kind words, and smiles. That is not wisdom coming with old age, but a truth that should steer us through the road of life.
Maybe even in the 15 minutes of fame we did not achieve, we touched someone. Maybe we will be remembered for the way we tried.
My late colleague, Bob Kaser, left us too soon, but he also left some wonderful words about life:
“Sometimes in our night dreams sometimes in our daydreams, our memories transport us back to some of those moments, once-upon-a-times moments … we think of words we might have said.” He hoped that “some who are fortunate enough to still have the opportunity will say things that should have been said, while there is still time.”
He wrote those words more than 35 years ago when he was young. And wise.
My sister and my friend both reflect not only wisdom but eloquence. I am lucky. I am old and maybe not wise, but I know when my heart is touched and my mind challenged.