Wisdom from the Passing Torch

June 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden

Photo credit: Flickr User Tom Bech

Photo credit: Flickr User Tom Bech

The quote above was so meaningful to me that I put it up in my office at work. Its power was underlined over the past few weeks as I attended two celebrations of life.

At the first, the funeral of a colleague’s father, the pastor encouraged those in attendance to consider how we would want people to talk about us when it is time for our lives to be celebrated.

Of course, we have no way of knowing when that will be. Our time could come tomorrow or decades from now so living life to the fullest will provide a strong legacy to those we leave behind.

While, I live with no regrets, the second funeral – that of my mother-in-law – Mary Black, highlighted the life of someone who was as much of a role model as anyone could ever be.

Mary was soft-spoken but ever so strong. She was kind, gentle and compassionate. I can’t think of anyone else who no one would have a negative word to say about them.

She was the ideal mother-in-law and, in turn, she has my ultimate respect.

Mary’s way of life can probably be summed up best by what could be found on her refrigerator: pictures of family and friends and the Serenity Prayer.

She lived a simple life and her gifts were always thoughtful, often home-made.

One such present was delivered to my wife, Joyce, for Mother’s Day 14 years ago.

It was a journal filled with memories and answers to life questions.

It contained some sage advice which I’ll share:

  • What is the most important message you have to pass on to others? “Be honest, don’t be lazy, do your best. Learn to laugh at yourself. We really are funny.”
  • What is the secret of good health? “Have good genes, drink lots of water, eat sensibly, and keep moving.”
  • What is your advice to those younger than you? “If there is something that you really want do to, don’t put it off too long. If there is something that you know you should do or say, don’t put it off. Find something good about every day.”
  • What is your child-rearing philosophy? “Love them all the time, even when you hate what they are doing. Somebody has to be boss, so it better be an adult. Expect the best of them.”
  • One word on how to live successfully? “Love. I would say live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
  • What are your most deeply embedded values? Honesty, love, truth. I would love to live in a world where everybody has enough to eat and no one was hungry, cold or lonely. I believe selfishness and greed cause all the problems. I am a Christian and try to live a life that will hurt no one else and maybe even help other people.”

Mary lived in her own home until she was 89 when a stroke would hit and lead to her eventual deterioration.

It was always a pleasure to visit her place. The calming atmosphere and inclusiveness she fostered were an attraction as were the cinnamon buns.

She was a fine example where the reputation matched the character.

Goodbye, Mary, thanks for the memories and the lovely daughter.


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§ One Response to Wisdom from the Passing Torch

  • Jan Haiste-Shields says:

    Beautifully written and I love the quote! Thank you.

    I’m very sorry for your losses, Dave. It is difficult and fascinating to see our elders passing on. Your takeaways are admirable.

    Very best wishes,

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