'Let us now praise famous men' and women, not wait until they die | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Almanac Online |

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An Alternative View

By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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'Let us now praise famous men' and women, not wait until they die

Uploaded: Oct 27, 2021
We all go through life, I suspect, wondering what people real¬ly think of us. Is he a fine man, a narcissistic one, a real gentleman, a sneaky person? Is she gentle, or mousey, or stuck-up? We, as individuals, wonder, and wait, but don't really find out. We die and then our "celebration of life" gatherings occur. Kind comments, nearly always

So, we never know, even if we are famous. Or are not.

Yet if I were to ask 10 of either Jack or Sally or Tom's friends to describe one of them (which I have done), usually people attribute the same characteristics to that person. "Well, Jack is a good guy, honest, family loving, a bit of a braggard, and always is convinced he is right But does Jack know how he is described by others? No. Few of us, for cultural or societal reasons or whatever, seldomly find out.

This idea of not knowing surfaced shortly after my father died, when at his memorial service I heard his many friends, neighbors and a large number of his patients praise him as an individual and a physician. I wish he had heard all this love and acclaim of him.

Not knowing what others think of us has been a recurring thought over the years. Recently, just after Gen. Colin Powell died at age 84, I listened to all the honor, respect, and tributes he received. I wish he had heard this before he died. After his Feb. 5, 2003, now infamous address to the United Nations, Powell said the Iraqis did, indeed, have weapons of mass destruction, testimony that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more," he told the UN General Assembly.

He later apologized, saying he was wrong, and suffered for a long time from his self-proclaimed guilt for delivering this speech, knowing what he was saying was wrong.

I was in NYC the day of his speech. I had a press pass for the meeting, but that morning, Feb. 5, it was cold and snowy and my hotel was way across town. No empty taxis were around. I decided to stay in the room and watch his speech on TV.

Alas, I am sorry I did not attend. But I carefully listened to every word he said, watched Powell's facial expressions intently, heard his voice getting quieter, and then saw him stand and leave without a smile.

He was conned, I thought, by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, then in George W. Bush's staff, who both were intent on starting the Iraq war.

That's why now, I so much wanted for him to know people accepted his apology for making such a mistake.

I'll say it out loud. I would love to have a memorial service before I die, not after. It would be a wonderful way to wrap up a life. (Enemies allowed, but not invited.)

Would this pre-death memorial concept ever work? Alas, there are a lot of questions surrounding my idea. When is the right time, if ever? The day before we die, like we even know that? A year before (probably too long a time). When they've been sick for ages? Well, if a person really hurts, will he hear what we're all saying?

Maybe because we don't know when the right time is, we're afraid to even discuss it.

But what if each of us were to send a nice "remembrance" letter to the person who is dying, or to all those over age 80 or 90 who acknowledge they would appreciate such notes? Then those letters could be reread and appreciated by the soon-to-die person.

Or is this all too ghoulish? Or is it simply a narcissistic thought?

Yet I wish my son had really known before he died how good a man he was, how much his family loved him. He died unexpectedly at 54, so few of us would ever realize it was letter-writing time.

So, my thought just stops here, unless one of you want to carry on this idea, or some church picks it up as a new "pre-death service" ceremony.

For some strange reason in thinking about an ending for this column, I remember years ago wandering through an old New England church cemetery, reading the tombstones. I saw one woman's headstone, from the early 1700s but still decipherable: "I told you I was sick!" I laughed as I walked away.
Democracy.
What is it worth to you?

Comments

 +   16 people like this
Posted by Amyra Patel, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Oct 27, 2021 at 12:45 pm

Amyra Patel is a registered user.

That is why some people rely on Facebook, to present a narcissistic & perpetual online memorial to themselves.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Claudette, a resident of Woodside,
on Oct 28, 2021 at 11:00 am

Claudette is a registered user.

If you know someone who is very ill, send those letters...NOW ! when I've done that I'm so glad I did. When I missed out and only could attend the memorial, I was sorry. Families always say how well those letters were received.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 29, 2021 at 8:52 am

Annette is a registered user.

Thank you for this blog, Diana. Several years ago, after learning from a very reliable source that a mutual friend who had terminal cancer had died, I sent a condolence card to the woman's family, relating what I admired about their wife and mother. To my great embarrassment, the woman herself called me a few days later. As you might imagine, I was shocked to hear her voice. She nicely informed me that although she would soon be passing on, for the moment she was still alive. She said she appreciated my letter and thanked me for it. Not long after that I visited with her at her bedside. She laughed about the misunderstanding; I was not quite ready to do that. Reading what you wrote gives me some peace about the awkward situation. Thank you. Explanation about how the misunderstanding happened: the woman I knew had the same name as the woman who had died. I hope that woman is as well remembered as my late friend. And I am sorry about your son. I expect he left knowing he was loved.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Oct 29, 2021 at 9:45 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Sending a letter is nice, but showing someone you love them is more effective. Actions speak louder than words. They will notice...


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Hal Plotkin, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 29, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Hal Plotkin is a registered user.

In my mid-60's, having lost so many loved ones, I am painfully aware now that each time I see someone it might well be the last time. That thought sharpens my appreciation of others. Since we never know when our last encounters will take place, it makes sense to treat each encounter as if it is the last one. That is also not a bad way to live.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Luckett587, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 30, 2021 at 1:49 am

Luckett587 is a registered user.

Not long after that I chatted with her at her bedside. She snickered about the misconception; I was not exactly prepared. Understanding what you composed gives me some harmony about the off-kilter circumstance. Much thanks to you. Clarification concerning how the misconception occurred: the lady I knew had a similar name as the one who had kicked the bucket. I trust that lady is also recognized as my late companion. What's more, I am grieved about your child.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Ariel Zablonsky, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Oct 30, 2021 at 2:38 pm

Ariel Zablonsky is a registered user.

The primary reason that most people of color treat their elders differently than many white folks is because they respect the dignity of aging and the wisdom accrued. This is not the case with countless younger white Millennials who often blame the rampant ineptitude and self-righteousness of older white 'elders' for the insurmountable mess that the world has become politically, economically, and ecologically. And they are entitled (and oftentimes justified) in their contempt. Thus there is minimal need to over-remember or over-reflect on those primarily responsible for the troubled and distressed world we are now confronted with. People of color (as a whole) do not adversely impact the world because most of them lack both the economic resources and 'good old boy' complicities to do so. Long-forgotten obituaries and neglected headstones are their eventual legacy. Like everybody else.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ahmad Hussein, a resident of another community,
on Nov 2, 2021 at 1:10 pm

Ahmad Hussein is a registered user.

Most funereal memorials are pre-oblivion celebrations unless the individual is a famous world leader or a noteworthy inventor. Very similar to wedding receptions.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anna Mike, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Nov 20, 2021 at 4:15 am

Anna Mike is a registered user.

I'm happy to see another person is keeping a thought that I thought only me thinking in that way. I often find it useless when a person dies and suddenly there are great words about him said and written all over but for no use. I don't think it's an appropriate way to conduct a pre-death memorial as it's not quite a practical option. It's not 'Me' but 'They' need to take that first step to recognize the great personality or good things an individual did and let him know he is respected and loved for all those good part of him. I am working in a professional maid service company in Dubai, where my work is quite connected to experience similar fate of those dedicated domestic workers whose work and sacrifice not often gets noticed or recognized. Only a few of them will get words of appreciation from their employers while many work all their life without much to cherish for. I can totally agree with you in one thing, it's a very effective idea to send out a letter to those persons with how wee felt of them and make them happy with all those kind and pleasing words. It helps them die knowing that their life was a meaningful one. Regards, Anna M Maids Trainer at HousekeepingCo ( https://www.housekeepingco.com )


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