Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I started the memorial service with the question, "Have you ever been in the presence of someone who, you realized, was teaching you how to die?" The answer, of course, was that if you had related in more recent times to the one whose life we were memorializing, then you were finding yourself in a teachable moment. Few like to talk about death. It is not acceptable dinnertime conversation. We are, most of us, afraid of the topic and prefer to quickly change the subject. But this one could speak, with absolutely no sense of forced bravado, of facing mortality, setting one's affairs in order, beginning the walk into the valley, without worry and without fear. It was an incredible sight to behold. And if we would but stay with him and listen, we would learn.

His life had been devoted to teaching and coaching. "A great wrestling coach" was an accolade heard often. He faced the integration of races on the wrestling team at a time when such a step could have caused a blistering string of events by saying, "We're just going to do it." And they did. And they won championships and shared the glory together.

He taught physics and algebra to the brightest of students. He knew that most of them would do well and, indeed, most of them did. But what about students who may not because of lack of natural ability, encouragement, or chance, make it successfully in today's world? So he went back to school, got his Master's in Marketing, so he could teach students who might not have much of a chance how to work in business and succeed in life. How often do most of us order our life in such a direction that someone else may have a good chance?

I try to suggest to myself, my family, and to others who might listen to live in such a way that no one will have to lie at the funeral. That doesn't mean we have to attempt perfection or seek to be great. Just be open to all the possibilities, fully human, and willing to learn. If so, someone with understanding and wisdom will come along and teach us how to give ourselves away and, yes, even how to die.

Bill in peace.

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