A few months ago I lost someone whom I always considered my uncle. He was not related to my family by blood, but rather by friendship, sometimes that is stronger than blood though. I had grown up thinking that his family was related to us, I guess I thought that his wife was my mother’s sister, they even look alike. They were and are best friends, so we simply spent a lot of time together as families.
I am grown now and I long ago realized that we were not actually blood relatives, but that never really mattered to us. I do not actually see his daughter much anymore, but she is still someone I consider family. I see his wife, my ‘aunt’, more often and though we do not sit and talk, we do exchange hugs and that look that tells each other that we are special and loved.
At his funeral I was sitting in a pew with my wife, my sister and my mother. My mom was strong and though I know she was hurting for the loss of her friend and for her best friend, she smiled a lot at people that she spoke to that day. That stayed with me.
The lesson I really paid attention to that day was deeper though: make your life mean something.
I listened that day to his friends and co-workers talk about the kind of man he was, the kind of friend and person he was. I had known he was a good father already, and he was a nice guy to me growing up. He even offered me advice when I was joining the Corps. But now I was hearing about him from his co-workers and from the people that worked for him.
They missed his voice, his reassuring hand on their back, his leadership and his trust. This hit home to me, I started to wonder what my friends and family would say if that was me in the casket one day soon. Would they beam about me? Would they tell stories about how I had made their life better? Would they mourn not having me with them every day?
I don’t know if I became a better person that day, but I know I started thinking about my legacy then. How will I be seen tomorrow by the people that are in my life? I know my wife would miss me, I know my children would and my family would. But the people I see in the hallway at work, would they miss me? Have I been good to them? Have I touched their life in a way that was helpful and sincere? Did I offer them anything that was worthwhile on their journey?
The Buddha said “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
My uncle clearly lit thousands of candles, now I am working on it too.