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Legacy: “Are We Being Good Ancestors?” – Jonas Salk

I have been reading the obituaries.  It isn’t a normal past time activity.  I am looking for someone…

My sister, Kelli, had a heart transplant on January 18th, 2013 at Cedars Sinai in California and she just wants to know a little more about her donor. The information you are given regarding organ donors is….well…not a lot:  Male, 25 years old, from Arizona.  We do know that his death would be recorded very close to or on the date of the transplant.  Obituaries for folks around the age of 25 are not very common.  It is a terribly young age to die.  It shouldn’t be that difficult to find the obituary, right?  Wrong!  Which is why I have been reading obituaries.  Lots of them.

Reading the obituaries of others can really make you stop and reflect on your life!  I have read some absolutely beautiful obituaries that describe what an impact the person had on the lives of others.  For example, this one for Joe A. Gallegos.  His story starts off with “Our Hero”.  He was a WWII veteran, a loving husband of 62 years, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather; not only is this a wonderful summary of the man’s life, but the obit continues to be visited and commented on by the people he touched.  Some of the obits have an amusing tone like this one for Dale Jones.  “Dale Jones was born Feb. 8, 1949 and assumed room temperature on Jan. 19, 2013. Hopefully he now resides with the elk, deer, javelina, coyotes and snakes”, it reads.  What is a javelina anyway?  Don’t worry, I googled it for you:  HERE YOU GO.   Some of the listings made me very sad.  Actually quite a few simply stated the name, date of birth and death, and read that there would be no service.

Jonas Salk (1914 – 1995), famous scientist/doctor who developed the first effective polio vaccine, once asked “Are we being good ancestors?”  It is a simple question with a not simple answer.  It is a question you can ask of present humanity and it is also a question you can ask of yourself.  I think we try to be good ancestors.  We want to make the world a better place for future generations, right?  We don’t always agree on how this should be accomplished but our intentions are good.  Well….some of them.

Thinking about that question on a personal level makes me think of that old frozen pizza commercial.  You know the one.  The law man is about to be hanged by the bad guys and he is asked, “What do you want on your tombstone?”  “Hm…pepperoni and sausage.”

Seriously, though.  What do I want on my tombstone?  What do I want my obituary to say?  What will people say about me?  What will be my legacy?  William Shakespeare writes in Julius Caesar , “The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”  
Will was a rather cynical old chap.  I mean…I suppose when Charles Manson dies, he is not going to remembered for that time he shared part of his chocolate chip cookie with his classmate.  But, for most of us non-evil folks, what is said of us after we pass is completely up to us.  Do good; Love people.

When you do give your last “Hurrah!” and say your final goodbye to the world, consider giving a final gift; the gift of life.  Be an organ donor and save lives.

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