Week 17A-ish (I’m All out of Sync) – A Tale of Two Lives

I realize I’m woefully behind in blog updates, and I’m not sure exactly where this one fits, but it’s perhaps one of  the most memorable recent insights. The project I’ve been working on has consumed ALL of me the past two weeks. But it’s also created a plethora of insights that I’m anxious to share, so watch out this coming week – what I’ve lacked in promptness may well be made up in volume!

Fitting that the assignment of reading an obituary each day coincides with the beginning of Scroll V in The Greatest Salesman, “I live this day as if it is my last”.

While scanning the obituaries one morning I noticed “Larry Speakes”. The name was familiar but I didn’t immediately place it. The first line cleared the confusion.

“Larry Speakes, Chief Spokesman for President Ronald Reagan for six years, died of  Alzheimer’s disease in Cleveland, MS in Friday, January 10, 2014.”

The Washington Post doesn’t receive obituaries from everyone in Cleveland, MS, but this one makes perfect sense.

The notice described his accomplishments in his career in journalism and then in public service in government. As one would expect.

It then goes on to describe his favorite pastimes, all in the company of his wife Aleta, including their passion for hiking the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. It even mentions their favorite hiking trails. He was an avid photographer – something I did not know and which of course caught my attention.

After reading the memorial notice I felt uplifted, happy and grateful to know more about the life of this man. It was truly a reflection written by someone who has achieved acceptance and a celebration of a life well-lived.

My eyes then were attracted to another – this one with a full-color photograph, and the name “Bruce”. The full name is listed in the memorial, but I’ll refrain from posting it here.

The first lines read “August 30, 1941 – January 31, 2011. Another year has passed but a sadness continues to shadow my days.” The balance relates how her life has changed forever since the loss of her beloved husband. And that he “lives for as long as we carry him inside us.”

Clearly wracked with grief, but I’m not sure she’s even past the stage of denial. I personally know someone who lost her husband a year ago – her telephone voice mail message still informs you that you have reached the number of (her husband’s name) and her.

Continuing to read other memorials, I realize that they all seem to fall into two categories. One written by those who have reached acceptance and realize that the best way to remember a loved one is in celebration of their life (I include in this group the dear woman who “will be missed by all, including her cats” who were each individually named). The other by someone who has yet to accept their loss and whose own life is paralyzed, immobilized by their grief.

Not surprisingly, the most uplifting and encouraging memorials are those written in acceptance as celebrations of a life, while those in grief and denial are heavy, depressing and difficult to connect with.

This truly was a tale of two lives, but not that of the lives of the departed – rather a telling tale of the lives of the survivors.

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