Daily Post: How Cristi’s Tombstone Made Me Think about Mine

Suggested topic: What do you want to be remembered for?

Cristi’s death forced my hand on this question. Sure, I’ve had a few grandparents pass away, but when your peer, your sister dies “before her time” it makes you think about this topic a little bit more.

??????????????????? HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche reading at Sakya Ward St Center Seattle Washington USA 1976
HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche reading at Sakya Ward St Center Seattle Washington USA 1976

I’ve blogged about it enough that if you’ve been keeping up, you know that it’s been quite a process getting over my step-sisters very untimely death. I’m sorry if you, dear reader, think this topic is old and trite, but it’s something I think about often, so please bear with me.

Cristi’s eulogy focused on the all-around gal she was. She was a special ed teacher, volleyball coach, softball coach, basketball player (and sometimes coach), daughter, sister, aunt, a friend. She played many leadership roles, especially as a teacher. She coached teenagers through true teenage crises, convincing them there is a reason to have a will to live. So, how is this complex individual remembered? We remember people through stories, through books, and through tombstones.

Cristi’s tombstone reminds me of the Russian tombstones here in Portland. It is a collage of photos overlaying the polished granite surrounded by other stones bearing epitaphs to her life. I’ve been to her grave twice now. Once at her funeral, before the stone was put in place. The second time was in September 2009, more than two years after her death. It was full of fresh flowers, jersey’s sporting her number, four, in the Byron Center colors of orange and black. I was glad no one else was around.

It seems odd to me that Cristi is remembered so largely for the sports part of her life. Sure, it was a big part of her life, but she was so much more than a sports player and a coach. Although the gravestone looks fine, and it is loved by many of my family members, I can’t help but think that it doesn’t quite do the Cristi I knew justice. It’s like it’s missing something. I’m not sure what, but the feeling I get is the compassionate side of her. Cristi loved and valued other people more than herself, and that is not showcased on her gravestone.

Cristi's Grave
Cristi's grave as seen early September 2009. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

So, knowing that with all the interactions we have in life, no one person will ever know all of you. Husbands see certain sides, friends see another, and sisters and brothers see yet another. Mothers, fathers, and grandparents offer a completely different perspective on our personalities. I only hope they see what I hope shows that I am striving to be.

To my knowledge, Cristi didn’t have the chance to say, “Remember me this way!” If you overlook that we all have that chance in our daily lives, most assume we’ll live until our generic life expectancy in our 70s or 80s. We don’t often think, what would this world look like or remember me by if I were to die tomorrow? We don’t often think that tragedy will hit us in that way. Most of us aren’t afflicted with terminal illness or in domestic violence situations or living in war zones where the constant threat of death is at our doorsteps.

So, thank you Cristi at least for the wake up call that we need to be on our best behavior because life is too short. If we consider what we want others to think of us as, perhaps it will serve as goal setting. So, now I am writing it down in this blog for all the world to see.

I want to be remembered as someone who took judicious action, picking up where there is a social need, and taking the ball and running with it. I want to be known for my compassion, my understanding, being forthright, honest, friendly. I want to be known as a good person.

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