As I sat and listened to Pauline’s son-in-law tell of her life and character, I was truly touched by such a life that had always thought of others – always loving her family, serving others, volunteering and ‘making cookies.’ When you are in the presence of a centenarian’s life legacy and realize that this life was over, but far from wasted, the funeral proceedings become so much more: so much more than just laying someone to rest.
Think of how much history she lived through. Born in the World Ward I years, she grew up through the Great Depression and World War II/Korean War eras. She literally saw world history go from the horse and wagon days to the Space Shuttle. But all of those experiences pale under the bright light of a life that was so respected and appreciated by her wonderful family. And I think each one of them mentioned her cookies.
Politicians long to leave a legacy of their careers and build great edifices to their honor. Libraries and museums are replete with artifacts and documentation that exalt the person’s public life. Sports figures are held in high esteem and their records of achievement remain as their legacies of accomplishments and to encourage other athletes.
It has been the same through the ages of time. The Pharaohs, the Caesars and other rulers of men desired to be thought of in a good light when they passed from this life. Even Genghis Khan and his descendants have cultural development and artistic development in their wake of cruelty and bloodshed.
People from all walks of life leave behind what they desire for others to know concerning them. But I would say this about Pauline, having only met her one time, then being drawn into her life by her family, her desire was not for her legacy. That probably was foreign to her mind. Rather, she would desire to be an encourager to her kids and grandkids. She would rather want to tell them to follow her example of faith in Jesus Christ and service to others. During her final days, she was still caring for others. Her daughter related that her mom noticed the back of her daughter’s hair needed to be combed and she instructed her to “tend to it.”
While reflecting on that special life, I couldn’t help but think that life ticks away, second by second, and we can’t slow it down or change its course. The end of life is certain. No one escapes alive. I know…we don’t like to think about it. But death is part of life and we aren’t assured of our next breath. What we are assured of, however, is that we will die.
Today is the day we have. We have a choice each minute of each day to choose what is right and good for others or what is selfish and stingy for ourselves. Jesus said that it is better to give than to receive in this life. People who live their lives as Pauline did, experience that truth in a very real and meaningful way. They experience the joy and satisfaction of helping others realize their importance to their families and their community. The world is a much better place when these folks are at their best – serving, loving and, of course, baking!
What about you and me? We are left behind in this world of hatred, danger and uncertainty. What are we doing to be a light amidst all this darkness? Many people simply turn away, ignore it all and hope it will all change for the better. But the Paulines of the world will never do that! They are different because they rise above it all with sincere love and concern for others and action that backs it up. They know they can’t change the world, but they know they can bloom where they are planted and make a positive difference in the people’s lives with whom they are with, wherever that might be. A powerful example for all of us indeed.
To leave behind a legacy of accomplishment is a good thing, for sure. But to leave this world with innumerable people throughout a life that were positively influenced by a true servant is a different concept altogether. That’s the Pauline, Gigi, that her family knew. And they know that Gigi will be blessed in Heaven when she realizes just how many people’s lives were richer because they touched her life.