Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Because of One Solitary Life

This past week we experienced the passing of a close neighbor after a long illness. It was a sad time, as well as an uplifting time hearing about the wonderful contributions he had made into the lives of his family and friends. What a blessed way to be remembered.

A few years ago I experienced a passing that felt just the opposite. This incident is forever etched into my memory bank. It was a sad experience, yet it felt like an episode of “Seinfeld.”

I had just started an environmental engineering position at the corporate headquarters of a major corporation. I was on the job a few weeks, I was the only one in the office at the time, and I hoped no incident would happen requiring me to intervene. I was just a neophyte!

Early afternoon I received a call from my boss who was out of town on business. He said one of the corporate executives had died and was being waked at a local funeral home. He asked me to pay respects to the family on behalf of the environmental engineering department. I had no clue who this person was. I had never seen a photo of him. I could not think about what I would say to the mourners.

Later when I walked into the foyer of the funeral home I saw the overflow crowd in the viewing room to my left. I walked over to the open casket and knew something was immediately wrong. The man laid out was short and stocky; every executive I had seen in my company was trim and over six feet tall.

A woman walked up to me and thanked me for coming. “How do you know my husband,” she asked.

I barely got the words out. “I work in the environmental engineering department at American Cyanamid.”

“Thank you for coming today,” she said. “My husband did all the bricklaying of the monuments at the front entrance to your company.”

What? This man is a stone-mason, not an executive! After offering condolences, I immediately and quietly escaped into the crowd, headed for the exit, when I saw another viewing room with a lone closed casket. The placard in the door indicated it was the executive.

I was stunned still. There was not a single mourner in the room. Surely there must have been a good reason for that. I cannot judge.

To this day, that incident is a reminder to remember people for their contributions to life worth living. Did they finish the race? Did they stay the course? Did they encourage their family? Did something change in a positive way because of that one life?

We are all one solitary life. I hope and pray we leave behind a legacy of blessings whether you are a stone-mason or a powerful executive. I know my neighbor friend did! 

Robert Parlante
August 2016

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