, Newburyport, MA

May 1, 2013

Ah, to be remembered

As I See It
Robert Campbell

---- — It’s interesting to note how we are remembered when the time comes for us to forget the “Bucket List” and just accept the fact that we have finally “kicked the bucket.” There are snippets of information from the government’s official casualty list concerning the deaths of those in the service of our country who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and all that is mentioned is their name, rank and hometown.

Newspapers can provide additional information concerning family and friends, but very little else such as achievements. Interesting too, is the fact that in many notices of death of an elderly person, the picture is of a youth. Perhaps that was their “finest hour” on earth. But, as Peggy Lee once sang,”Is that all there is?”

What brought these thoughts to mind was an article in The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2012, by Jane Brody, science journalist. She writes about the Cornell Legacy Project whose aim is to encourage elders to write their epitaph (or as I call it exit interview) as a means of providing a guideline for understanding life as it has been lived.

A key is what are some of the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life. The subjects that Brody lists are: careers, marriage, parenting, aging, happiness (or not) and regrets. I would add to that list, faith!

Some newspapers and TV news have their fledgling hires write epitaphs as training for more serious articles. Of course, the only point omitted is the date of demise. I believe it might be an important exercise for us all, no matter what age, to write our own epitaphs. If you were commemorating your own life NOW, what would you write? Forget the fact that you haven’t lived four score as yet — what dreams do you have or regrets for what you haven’t as yet accomplished? By putting your thoughts down, there is a likelihood that you might just try to make some changes before the bucket tips over. Let me provide a few thoughts on each of the subjects mentioned by Brody.

I dare say that today’s citizens have a bountiful list of careers behind them. In my day you stayed at one job because, as a child of the Depression, there was little opportunity to try something else. You had a job and stayed at it whether good or bad. I stayed in chemical sales until retirement because I enjoyed the work, was provided a pension, and was promoted on a satisfactory schedule. But, if I were to admit to a regret, it’s that I didn’t pursue a journalism career. My best course in college was Expository Writing; however, chemistry and biology intrigued me more. At age 43, I started writing as a hobby and after 40 years I’ve written for three newspapers, authored a book and have over 800 articles in print in a variety of magazines. It’s never too late to start a new career. Did you ever make a decision that changed the direction of your life?

As far as marriage is concerned, the advice we received from a pastor in Chicago prior to our marriage has held us in good stead for over 56 years: “Marriage isn’t 50:50, it’s 100:100.” I believe that too many marriages break up over “things” that are unimportant. It is one of the biggest steps you will ever take in your life, so both involved in the union have to be in agreement over just about everything. What advice would you offer?

Parenting is the “toughest” of all responsibilities; there is no close second. Once a parent, always a parent. What advice would you give on raising a family?

Aging can be a “ball” if you let it! Fortunately, my health is good so that I can give support where it is needed either at home, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, driving patients for therapy or walking our daughter’s dog daily. A lot of happiness comes with aging well and enjoying each day. What is your story on the age you are at presently? Has it brought the satisfaction you expected?

Finally, what part has faith played in your life? Has it played a part at all? I’m reminded of that old chestnut, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” If you haven’t as yet had to face adversity, consider yourself fortunate. It will happen at sometime in your life, so be prepared with a confession of faith. How about making known your “revelation” on life?


Robert D. Campbell, an essayist who lives in Newburyport, believes that a sense of humor is essential.