Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: Matters of the Heart
By Timothy McDevitt
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“All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.” The scene reminded me of a song from the sixties as I swished through the leaves along the lane into the cemetery. I was coming for a brief visit with an old friend. When I stood for a moment at the gravesite - a humble wooden marker which designates the site as he desired - a memory flashed into my mind. Some fifteen months hadn’t dimmed the image appreciably.
There was a soft warm breeze blowing as we sat and rocked on the porch that August evening. Rob had suddenly turned our discussion over to how he thought he might be remembered. It was one of those candid, sacred moments between friends. Six months earlier Rob had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Chemotherapy had been failing him and hope was barely a flicker. I sensed he wanted to confide this, and resisted the urge to rush in with a barrage of transparent encouragements.
An accomplished writer and professor of English, he had many sources from which to draw. Head cocked, and eyes wandering as he sifted through the years of publications, a smile of recognition lit up his face. He then told me how an expert had recently referred to his work on Surinam as a “classic”, not knowing he was speaking to one of the authors. “Yup,” he chuckled, “maybe the piece on Surinam.”
That November, on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, we gathered in a small church to commemorate Rob’s passing and to celebrate the life of our special friend. We were encouraged to stand and share our memories. A common theme among the various accounts was how very special Rob made you feel; one fellow, smiling, remarked how surprised he was at the turnout, since he was always made to feel he was Rob’s only friend. A number of once struggling writers gave an emotional account of what Rob had done for them while he took them under his wing. Several related stories of his community volunteer work, and one tearfully gave an account of how Rob helped launch her career in art by renovating an old building which he then invited her and others to use for their work.
Story after story wove a pattern of selfless giving, which had left deep impressions on these lives. Rob, here it was - how you were being remembered. However, these were matters, not of the mind, but of the heart. As I stood at the gravesite in silent reflection, the chill nipping at my ears, I realized that in the day-to-day busy-ness of life it’s easy to forget the impact which our kindness can have on those who work along side us in life’s struggles. The beauty which is sculpted by these generous acts can far outshine our most skilled endeavors.
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