Today I attended the funeral of my uncle; the second uncle I’ve lost in six months. Both of them were such good men. Strong, kind, God-fearing, family men. Small-town, friendly, hard-working, firm handshake men. Good men.
That word “good” kept coming up with every conversation about him. There wasn’t a better word to come to mind. Regardless of my limited vocabulary, it sums up his life really well.
They both had served in the military earlier in life. And as such, were treated with military honors at the funeral. (Can I just say how much I love that this happens, is required by law, and how they do it so respectfully). It is a beautiful site to see that flag draped over the coffin. There’s a sense of pride knowing they were willing to sacrifice their lives 60 years ago. But thankfully, they had 60 more years of a free life to enjoy. 60 more years of growing a family and doing good in the world.
Good. There’s that word again. They were good. They did good.
The family asked me to be a pallbearer. My hand was last to push the casket into the hearse. Standing there staring at the blue field of white stars, I had an empty feeling. Not so much that I was sad, but that there’s a hole in the world with him gone. “We lost a good one,” my aunt said about him. A good one.
Two soldiers from around the greatest generation. And not to compare, but I feel a bit unworthy. Here I am, the same age my dad was when I first went to a funeral. I’m a grown-up. I don’t remember becoming a grown-up, but I suppose I am one. I’m certainly old enough.
Whatever the vague line is that I had to cross to be a man, I suppose I did that, too. So, here I am standing in the shadows of two greats, buried in a pile of my 1st-world-problems, with the realization that my cousins and I are the one to fill their shoes.
Maybe there’s a better analogy… like walking in their footsteps. No one can fill their shoes or do what they did, especially in their times and circumstances. And it’s not a competition. To do what? Build bigger buildings? Drive faster cars? Fight worse battles?
Every generation wants the ones coming up behind to have it a little easier. And maybe in some ways it is, but in others it’s not. Humans tend to make a mess of things one way or another. There’s nothing new under the sun.
If I can do anything to honor their legacy, it would be to do good. To be good. What else would they ask for? What more could I do? To live my life so that in the end, I have a room full of people saying, “we lost a good one.” And maybe that’s enough to leave the next generation wondering if they’re also doing enough.
Today, someone brought my mom a 100-year-old picture of my great-grandfather driving a train out of a phosphate mine he worked in. They said the mine was enough work for the whole town to support their families. They started a church there. Doing good goes back generations upon generations.
Here we are. The grown-ups. The next generation. The ones with the baton in our hands and a stadium of future generations anxious to see how fast we’ll run.
Well, take a deep breath, because the time has come. Go forth and do good.