I attended a funeral recently: the sudden death of the father of a dear friend of one of my children. He was a big man with a big heart and a bigger soul. Perhaps his soul was too big for the outer shell. A heart attack. At home. In his favourite chair. Coping with life changes is difficult at the best of times. Sudden death is that much more chaotic.
A hard lot has been created for human beings, a heavy yoke lies on the children of Adam from the day they come out of their mother's womb, till the day they return to the mother of them all. What fills them with foreboding and their hearts with fear Is dread of the day of death. Ecclesiasticus 40:1God said to Abram (Abraham), "Leave your country, your kindred and your father's house for a country which I shall show you" (Genesis 12:1-2). Abram did as he was told and Abram took his wife Sarai (Sarah), his nephew, Lot, and all the possessions they had amassed (Genesis 12:5-6).
The Bible gives us only the bare bones of the story, a few lines and history changes.
Abram was 75 years old when he packed up and left his home for an unknown destination. He took all his possessions. But what could they have been that he was able to take all of them? When we think of the possessions that we can acquire today in 75 years, it's almost unimaginable the amount of cartons and the size of the truck we would need to move everything. And Abram made this move to an unknown place based solely on the word of and his faith in this ineffable God.
There comes a time for all of us when God calls to us to "Go forth" and we must leave the home we have known all our lives and, like Abraham, go into the unknown. Unlike Abraham, we cannot take our possessions with us. And, ultimately, what we leave behind is far more important than anything we could take with us.
We are all told the importance of getting our things in order before we die. We write a will distributing our possessions to our loved ones, trying to think about who would most appreciate this object over that. Now, many of us plan our own funerals and pre-pay them.
But how many of us think about the values, morals and ethics that we pass on to our children and grandchildren, extended family and our friends? How much time have you expended thinking about and writing an ethical will? And how much of what you write will you have taught by your behaviour in this world? Or will it just be empty words?
Have you acted on your moral beliefs with courage of your convictions or have you turned away or joined the ranks of the silent majority? Have your family and friends watched as you reached out to the sick and the weak, your elderly neighbour, your new neighbour, to the newly widowed? Have they watched you open a door, give up your seat, write letters to the editor? Or do they listen to you complain about your world while doing nothing?
Have they been the recipient of lessons in welcoming the stranger or have they listened to you rant about those people? Have they learned from you that along with personal rights come responsibilities to others, that a sense of entitlement leaves you locked in a prison of the self?
Do you give to charity, either with your time or through your cheque book?
Have they learned at you knee that as citizens they are obligated to be engaged in their world or have you taught them what Thomas Aquinas called an ignorantia affectata, a cultivated ignorance, a willful lack of knowledge in order to protect one's own self-interest? No moral culpability.
What we leave behind will be our legacy; how we want to be remembered at the holiday table when family gets together to reminisce. How do you want to be remembered? I've yet to speak to anyone nearing death regretting not spending more time at work. Regret is always for the hours away from family and friends.
It is your name and your deeds that are the greatest possession you leave your family as you take your last breath in this world and the first breath in the world to come. My child's friend's father left an extraordinary legacy to his wife, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends. More than 600 people came to his funeral.
"As a drop of water in the sea, as a grain of sand on the shore are man's few days in eternity. The good things in life last for limited days, but a good name endures forever." -- Ben Sira
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!" "Gone where?" Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at that moment when someone at my side said: "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!" Anonymous
A Russian dashboard camera recently caught a heartwarming act of kindness that took place on a bustling street. An old woman was in the midst of crossing a road with obvious difficulty when an SUV stopped mid-intersection. The driver exited the vehicle and grabbed the woman's bag, offering her an arm to help her get across safely.
To honor the memory of a soldier who was killed in action, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/facebook-user-sends-beer-on-behalf-of-fallen-navy-seal_n_1375924.html" target="_hplink">Jeff Beurline corded off a special spot</a> at his local bar in Connecticut for Lt. Michael P. Murphy. Beurline bought Murphy -- or "Murph," as he was known by friends -- a Guinness and propped a reserved sign on the beer alongside an American flag. The bartender not only agreed to pour random strangers a Guinness throughout the day, but also offered to pay the costs. Read Beurline's account of the act of kindness in his <a href="https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=151522458303677&id=182249954768" target="_hplink">post on Seal of Honor's Facebook page</a>. (Image via Facebook, <a href="http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1732927463" target="_hplink">Jeff Beurline</a>).
A McDonald's surveillance camera caught a San Diego police officer's small -- but powerful -- act of kindness on tape. What makes the moment special is not the act itself, but that it happened mere minutes before the officer, <a href="http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Officer-Henwoods-Final-Act-of-Kindness-127886453.html" target="_hplink">Jeremy Henwood, was gunned down</a> in his patrol car.
To protect the family of Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale from anti-gay protesters on the day of his funeral, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/texas-am-students_n_1653002.html" target="_hplink">Texas A&M students and alumni donned maroon</a> and formed a human wall. Westboro Baptist Church members, who often stage demonstrations military funerals, were planning to stage a protest outside Tisdale's funeral, but never showed up. Fortunately, an estimated 650 people in maroon were there to make sure the family could mourn in peace. (Image via Facebook, Leslie Mott)
Sara Tucholsky, a softball player for Western Oregon University, scored a three-run homerun for the first time in her college career in a game against Central Washington University. But while touching first base, she injured her knee. The rules stated that none of her teammates could assist her. So instead, two players from the opposing team -- Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace -- carried Tucholsky to each base. All three players received a standing ovation.
Wheelchair-bound Patrick Connelly began to cry when he couldn't see over the standing fans at a Blake Shelton concert. His mother, Cheryl Connelly, and her daughter, tried to pick Patrick up so he could see, but were unable to hold his weight for long in the sweltering heat. It wasn't until <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/16/strangers-help-disabled-f_n_1677391.html" target="_hplink">two strangers hoisted Patrick up</a> and held him aloft for a half-hour that Patrick was able to finally enjoy the concert.
It was the fourth inning of the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks game. A player tossed a ball into the stands and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfF1m3-Dl_Q" target="_hplink">12-year-old Ian McMillan</a> ended up catching it while a younger baseball fan cried on the sidelines. Seeing the young boy's reaction, Ian handed over his prize, later explaining "it was the right thing to do."
After winning the state title for the 1600 meter race, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/meghan-vogel-ohio-track-star-carries-runner-video_n_1570857.html" target="_hplink">Ohio track star Meghan Vogel</a> intentionally finished in last place in the 3200 meter race by carrying an injured competitor over the finish line.
While in China, Jason Loose, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/american-french-fry-brother-jason-loose_n_1559531.html" target="_hplink">who is now known as "French Fry Brother,"</a> sat down to chat with a homeless woman and offered her some of his fries. Loose's random act of kindness, caught on camera by a passerby, made waves among Chinese microblogging sites for his altruism. (Image via Matt Cao/Sina Weibo)
Aaron Collins' family fulfilled his final wish by giving a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/aaron-collins-family-leaves-500-tip-pizza-last-wish_n_1668533.html" target="_hplink">$500 tip to an unsuspecting waitress</a> at Puccini's Smiling Teeth in Lexington, Ky. "Are you serious?" the waitress asked after being handed the hefty cash tip. Yes, the Collins family is serious and plans to continue handing out $500 tips in Aaron's memory.
Vincent Gabriel Kirouac is making his way across Canada with his horse Coeur de Lion in a crusade to promote manners and chivalry. While the 22-year-old has saved up for the journey over the past two years, he told <em>CBC</em> that <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2012/07/12/sk-quebec-knight-kirouac-saskatchewan-120712.html" target="_hplink">he has never spent a night outdoors</a>. In fact, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/14/vincent-gabriel-kirouac-chivalry-canada-knight_n_1672126.html" target="_hplink">Kirouac relies on kind strangers</a> to provide free room and board each night.
Sean O'Connor <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/rjkoy/hey_reddit_my_47_year_old_uncle_scott_widak_has/" target="_hplink">posted a call-out on Reddit</a> on behalf of his uncle Scott Widak, who was terminally ill and had Down syndrome. "He is currently bedridden and living out his last days at home with my 85 year old grandmother. One of his favorite things to do is open mail...anyone feel like sending him a letter or card?" O'Connor wrote in a post. Within days, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/scott-widak-reddit_n_1514338.html" target="_hplink">Reddit users sent hundreds of letters and gifts</a> to the bedridden 47-year-old. O'Connor <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/w8hes/dear_reddit_my_uncle_scott_who_had_down_syndrome/" target="_hplink">returned to Reddit in July</a> following his uncle's death to thank users for reaching out.
When 8-year-old <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/johnny-karlinchak-neighbor-lemonade-stand_n_1687656.html" target="_hplink">Johnny Karlinchak saw his neighbor's house crushed</a> by a 60-foot-oak, he ran to his piggy bank and emptied its contents into his neighbor's hands. Unfortunately, the $1.25 would not cover Elissa Myers' $500 deductible so Johnny took to what he knew best -- selling lemonade -- to cover the deficit. (Image via Getty)
Cyclist <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/19/caring-cyclist-homeless-youtube_n_1529649.html" target="_hplink">Lewis Dediara captured his random act of kindness on tape</a> during one of his bike rides through London. Dediara, who wears a head-mounted camera, offered to buy a homeless man whatever he wanted to eat from a nearby convenience store after he found him sifting through a trash can.
Customers at a particular Tennessee gas station got quite a surprise when they learned that their gas was already paid for by a generous stranger. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/23/tennessee-man-buys-gas-fo_n_402179.html" target="_hplink">Don Reed decided to fill up 80 strangers' cars</a> with money out of his own pocket and send them on their way. His generosity was all part of a plan to spread holiday cheer in December.
Sacrificing the safety of her own vehicle, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/lezlie-bicknell-woman-saves-kids-runaway-car_n_1664973.html" target="_hplink">Lezlie Bicknell acted on instinct</a> and rushed to the rescue of two children left unattended in a van that was slowly rolling out of a New Mexico parking lot toward a busy intersection.
Local businesses in Aurora, Colo., banded together to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/aurora-businesses-fix-stolen-jeep_n_974141.html" target="_hplink">restore a woman's Jeep that had been stolen and destroyed</a> following news reports of the unfortunate theft. After two weeks of nonstop work, Jovan Williams' Jeep was returned to her in 'better-than-new' condition.
Following a post on Reddit by her dad, Kyle, 5-year-old Alexis Blackburn received a flurry of cards and well wishes from caring strangers. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/alexis-blackburn-reddit_n_1680641.html" target="_hplink">overflow of support for Alexis</a> inspired someone to create a Reddit thread seeking other sick children in need of encouragement. (<a href="http://imgur.com/niLv8" target="_hplink">Image via Imgur</a>)
Fiona, a poodle mix, was sick, blind and infested with fleas when she was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/26/blind-dog-fiona-in-trash-rescue_n_1379889.html" target="_hplink">rescued from a trash heap</a> by Eldad Hagar and his wife Audrey. After a nationwide fundraising effort that raised $4,000 for an eye surgery, Fiona is now able to see in one eye. She was adopted by a caring family and is reportedly "doing amazing." <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> This slide has been updated to show the correct spelling of Eldad's last name.</em>
After receiving a phone call from a Georgia animal shelter, Brenda Travis and her husband Tom Shield were overjoyed to learn that their basset hounds, who had been missing for five years, had been found. However, the couple, who had relocated to Kansas, did not have the means to pick up the dogs, so they <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/stolen-dogs_n_1678733.html" target="_hplink">turned to volunteers on Facebook</a> who offered to bring the dogs nearly 1,000 miles from the Georgia animal shelter to the couple's home in Kansas.
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