This past weekend I attended the memorial service of a lovely, old gentleman named George. After battling cancer for some time, and failing in hospice, he finally succumbed, leaving a very sad family behind.
His memorial service was memorable indeed. It wasn’t because of the staggering numbers. Being quite elderly, he didn’t have a lot of friends left. It wasn’t because it was ostentatious; it was subdued and personal, with lots of great Nat King Cole and Scott Joplin music and thoughtful readings.
No, the reason it stood out to me was because of something his daughter-in-law said in her eulogy. She said, “George didn’t just live his life. He illuminated it.”
He illuminated his life. I can’t tell you how this resonated for me. The idea swam through my brain waves for days and I knew I had to write about it.
So often we go through the course of a day, a week, a year, searching for that certain something that will make our lives better, that will provide us with fulfillment and excitement. It never really occurred to me this ability lies inside all of us. We often get caught up, thinking things like, “If I could only get that promotion,” or “If only my kid got better grades and listened to me,” or “If only I lost ten more pounds.” George didn’t strike me as the sort of man who thought this way. By no means was this gentleman wealthy or famous or as handsome as Robert Redford. George was a regular guy. He had a wife, the love of his life. He was a former wartime pilot who eventually went into business. He had two children and three grandchildren. To many, George had a normal life.
And yet, he illuminated it. How? He rejoiced in the simple things, like his family and friends. He loved to eat. He loved to dance and to listen to music. He laughed. From what I recall, he laughed a lot. He was a tremendous conversationalist, loving to chat with all sorts of people. Are any of us conversationalists anymore, in the digital age? It doesn’t feel that way.
After attending George’s memorial, I went home and began to wonder what I can do to illuminate my life. Suddenly, I wanted to hug my kids more, to spend more time at the end of a school day, finding out what they did. I wanted to hold my husband’s hand, to lean into his caress and share my affection. I wanted to call my mom, just to see how her day was going. I realized I wanted to make other people’s lives better.
I wanted to love a whole lot more. And George’s wonderful example taught me I can do this. I’m capable of finding joy in small things, and not stressing over unimportant details.
So that one day, when I’m gone, people will hopefully say I illuminated my life too.