A Life of Purpose
I’ve had the end of life on my mind lately, probably because I attended the funerals of several good friends in recent months, all of whom died far too young (or at least young by my 64 year old standard). Last Fall there were two memorial services back to back—Helen Piszek Nelson on a Friday, Father Jim Von Dreele on a Saturday. While they didn’t live a full span, both of these wonderful people made a real difference in the world--Helen as a philanthropist running her family’s foundation, The Copernicus Society, and Jim as an Episcopal priest who worked hard for social justice. They have been inspirations, and I believe others will follow in their footsteps. And so their spirits will live on.
A couple of years ago, I lost two friends to suicide—beautiful women inside and out, and loving moms, for whom the world became just too much to bear. Both of their families are now active in supporting suicide prevention organizations, honoring their memories, and their friends join them. And so Deb’s and Heather’s spirits live on.
The pandemic has also, of course, been a grim reminder of mortality, and the fragility of existence itself. Dying of COVID, alone and frightened, is such a nightmare, one I fervently pray will end soon. Do those souls live on, after being unexpectedly torn from the world? I believe they do, in eternity, and in the hearts of those who love them.
Why some people suffer greatly with physical or mental illness, and some are spared, why children die, and others peacefully drift away at a ripe old age, is a mystery I don’t think is solvable on this earth. There’s so much of this living and dying process that is out of our control. But while we are breathing, we can try to live lives of purpose. That “purpose” is as varied as people are themselves—some folks affect multitudes, others only a small circle. Some find their reason for being early in life, some later.
I look back on my life’s journey to this point, and while there have been many, many times of self-doubt for sure, and a great many detours from a set course, I am trying to live purposefully. It is my prayer that, when my time comes, there will be something of me left behind, something worth remembering, some good work worth continuing.
And that is something that I can control. So let me not waste a single day. Helen’s father, Ed Piszek, was founder of Mrs. Paul’s Kitchens and a great humanitarian. His memoir is aptly titled Some Good in the World. Ed (and later his daughter) made a big impact on the global stage, but doing some good, on whatever scale we can manage, is a goal available to everyone, and the key to living a life of purpose.
And by making a positive difference with our lives, of whatever length we are granted, we’ll have our reason to be here.