I attended the funeral of my father's last surviving brother today. He was a remarkable man: he was one of the original African-American pilots trained at the Tuskegee Institute and went on to train the famous All-Black 99th Pursuit Squad - which made history in aerial combat in the European Theater during World War II. Those pilots are well known as the "The Tuskegee Airmen," and he taught them everything they knew! After the war, he ran a business, taught in the Columbia South Carolina's public schools, working his way up to being an Assistant Principal, was heavily involved in church and community service, and was one of the gentlest, kindest, funniest people I have ever known. He lived 94 years.
The preacher at the funeral said that even those 94 years were too few.
Too few to carry grudges and bitterness.
Too few to be selfish and angry.
He reminded us that ife is too short to hold out and hold back:
give freely, laugh loudly, love deeply.
Too short to miss weddings or funerals.
Celebrate love, celebrate life.
Too short to spend so much time in pursuit of stuff and status.
Too short to constantly deny oneself every pleasure.
Too short to hang on to what has stopped working.
Too short not to try one more time.
Too short to keep it all in: tell him that you love him.
Tell her too.
Too short to save the good linens, highly polished silverware, and crystal goblets
for holidays and special occasions.
Too short to go out and buy that stuff; take a memorable trip instead.
Too short to hide the good jewelry in the bottom of the lingerie drawer.
Wear it every day. Be dazzling every single day.
Too short to lose faith; keep hope and trust alive.
Too short hold on to old ways of thinking; open your mind and heart to new questions and responses.
Too short to stay angry at the kids or the ex-wife or the current husband.
This is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. This is the only life I have.
Uncle Earnest lived his life fully to the end. In his dementia, he could still recite poetry, play the piano, and sing the old hymns of the church. He still smiled and hugged his grandchildren and told great stories. He will be greatly missed.
As I stood near his casket and looked at the headstone that will soon adorn the plot where it will be laid to rest, the preacher's sentiments echoed once again in my mind: life is too short not to live my eulogy every day. Reaching out to those I love. Smiling and laughing. Taking photos and writing blogs. Filling the pages of my journal with stories and collages and great memories. Serving others. Feeding the hungry, befriending the lonely, corresponding with the son of a dear friend who is in prison. Teaching and speaking and walking alongside fellow life travelers, listening to their stories and learning the lessons and living the experiences of a life well-lived. Daily giving thanks to God for all the people, all the days, all the hours, all the moments that make up this very short life of mine.