Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | August 11, 2011

The Passage of Time

Her name was Cleo and she lived to be 95. Earlier this week, I went to church, celebrated her life and prayed her home. I didn’t know her incredibly well, I mean, I never invited her over for tea or anything, but each and every Sunday I made sure I made it to her pew at greeting time. She would meet me with a glowing smile, a soft hand, and a tender hug. If I had missed the Sunday before, she would sincerely tell me she missed me. Any time she wasn’t there, I missed her, too. I will miss her each Sunday from this day forward.

As I sat near the back of the church, looking at the backs of many older heads in front of me, I was overcome. Yes, funerals tend to do that to me – just like a good wedding – but this was more. I recognized so many of these white-haired heads and I realized there were fewer than the last funeral I attended for one of my ‘more mature’ friends from church, and there will be even fewer the next time.

I began to think about this generation before me, and mine, and the one that I am helping raise that will come next. Cleo’s generation is called the greatest generation for a reason – they earned it. I believe they were – for the most part – cut from a different cloth. Maybe a better one. Now, every generation has its share of jerks, and there are certainly great men and women today, but as a whole, I believe to really move thing forward, we need to take a look back. We need to regain some things that somehow got lost along the way – things my grandfather and my parents knew and tried to teach me…

  • Own your stuff – take responsibility for your own actions and your own life. The world doesn’t owe you anything and life isn’t fair. We each have to do the best with what we’ve got, work damn hard, and know that at the end of the day, how we act and react is up to us and will impact the world around us.
  • Be frugal and be grateful for what you have. There is a big difference in wanting something and needing it. Today we think we NEED an iPad, 1,387 cable channels, the latest and greatest of this and that – which can mean we believe we have less to share. All too often today, we make our decisions based on what is ‘best for me’ in this moment, the greater good or the community be damned.
  • There is strength in humility. If we all spent less time puffing ourselves up and more time just doing the right thing, oh what a world it would be.
  • Loyalty matters. When you make a commitment, stick with it and stick it out. Disposable marriages and families and partnerships didn’t exist 50 years ago and they shouldn’t exist now. Nothing everlasting ever happened overnight and nothing worth really having ever came too easily.
  • Work hard and embrace a challenge. Earn the good things you want in your life through honest, hard work; don’t expect it to be handed to you on a silver platter.

In the end, it really boils down to one simple lesson – Don’t make everything so complicated! Don’t think about everything so much – just get up and get it done. And be a little kind along the way.

I think Cleo understood all this, and I believe so many of my other aging friends do as well. They believe in community and help each other out. They are kind and supportive when it really matters. They believe and invest in community, often over self. And they live rich, full, happy lives because of it.

I am so thankful for so many of these folks in my life. I am sad to be losing them. I pray that I can keep some of what they stand for alive and teach it to my children. The torch will be passed and someday – sooner than I think – there will be someone much younger than me sitting in the back pew, looking at the back of my white head, pondering my generation. I wonder what they will say of me…

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