I’ve heard the question, “who would you like to have a conversation with-dead or alive-if you could?” Most answers deal with celebrities, historical figures or Presidents-I have never been able to come up with a honest answer. I mean, when asked the question, nothing comes to mind.
Last weekend I spent some time at the Viking Cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day. I have no interest in my own death however the end of life really intrigues me. The meaning of life, the gift of eternal life or reuniting with friends and family all come to mind when I think of death. Being at a cemetery is also prime time to be nostalgic and remember-a real chance to roll through the memories you have of its’ current residents. That’s where I finally found my answer to the question of who would I want to speak, whether they were dead or alive.
Growing up around Viking, Minnesota was pretty good in the seventies. I spent a lot of time outdoors, got to be around animals and my friends were great-they’re still my friends today. What made it even better were the people that would make a difference later in my life. Some of these people were actual teachers while many of them taught by the example of their life. These were mostly quiet people who just lived and worked and raised great families and supported their community, their church and their school. They volunteered to do things without the expectation of acknowledgment and helped a neighbor when they needed it-without being asked. I had a great base of character from which to draw and take for my own and use the rest of my life. I was lucky.
So last week-end, I saw the headstones and grave markers of many of these people. I thought of how many of them had encouraged me in different endeavors or simply attended school functions and watched me, and others; play our solo, play sports or just kept us safe while we played. I thought of how I would observe some of these people to see how they worked and I would then emulate their actions. They all had special talents but some of them were skilled in trades and I would wonder how a person could accumulate such knowledge, so I would ask them. There were people who ran small business in town or farmed too, I always admired these people and their lives motivated me.
If I were to have a chance to speak with these people, what would I ask? Honestly, I would ask them how I did. I would ask them questions about the actions that mentored my own growth too however I think I would ask them how I did with the gifts they gave me-without even knowing they were given. I would also thank them for living the kind of life that I could use as a pattern for my own.
So I finally have an answer to the question. I also have a place to go to remember where I came to be me and I know who to thank.