Friday, January 11, 2008

Our Time On Earth is Short

When we used to live across the street from the cemetery, I would occasionally take a walk among the tombstones. There were many tombstones from the early part of the 20th century. Tombstones of people who died in the teens, twenties and thirties. One thing that struck me was that these tombstones were rarely visited by anyone, much less family members.

We are known for only about 5 or 6 generations - our grandparents, parents, siblings and friends, children and grandchildren. A few lucky people will know their great-grandparents or great-grandchildren. Our memory will last for only about 100 years.

A few, those who become famous, will be remembered for much longer but they won't ever really be known. We can't talk to Abraham Lincoln's friends, George Washington's soldiers, or Shakespeare's family. Even for those who write, most will just fade away, forgotten in a dusty bin in a library.

My point is that we realistically have a very short time to make an impression on a very small number of people. We can influence people in positive ways or negative ways. I hope that I will have a positive influence on those people I know as my predecessors had a positive influence on me.

I never knew my great-grandfather Howard Malcolm. But I did know his son, Dan Abbott and his grandson, Dean Malcolm. I know from reading Grandpa's memoir that Howard, a Baptist preacher, wanted to serve God. He passed this on to his son, his grandson, to me, and I will pass it on to my children. I hope they will pass it on to their children and grand-children. Each generation must make this faith their own. We won't always agree on everything but we don't have to.

1 comment:

bill catling said...

How do we live knowing that our time is so short, not knowing when our time will be up, realizing the importance of each encounter, the fragility of life and the power of memory. Like you Tim, I long to live a life worth being remembered.