In a land where it is never really day nor night, never really happy nor sad, we inhabitants sometimes forget that there are people and events that deserve to stand out in life. That is why I was wandering through the gray and withered landscape of the Land of Lost Board Members’ cemetery. It was time to reflect on……….
“Hey, little lady,” sighed a voice from the far side of a tombstone. “Out here thinking, eh? I come here often to do the same thing. But thinking doesn’t make the sun shine.” He looked up at the gray sky.
It was my friend and community benefactor, Al Truistini. “I didn’t see you there. How are you feeling?” He shrugged. “You know,” I continued, “this is a small place and word gets around when one of our heroes is not well.” I smiled at him as I found a perch on a nearby stone.
“Yes, I know word does get around.” He drew his coat more tightly around him. “My illness has caused me to reflect on my life in this community and the work that will be my legacy, maybe sooner than I would like, eh?”
I tried to say all those things one should say when faced with honesty and courage of the dying. I didn’t succeed in saying anything. He looked at me with eyes that were tired. He gave me a soft smile and patted my hand. We sat silently for awhile as he traced patterns on the ground with his walking stick. It was so peaceful, and he so quiet, that I almost didn’t hear as he asked, ”Will you remember me?”
“What do you mean ‘Will I remember you?’ How could I forget you? My mentor, my inspiration. The person who taught me how to take my heart and turn it to commitment, the person who…………”
He chuckled. “You can really get going, can’t you?” He struggled to catch his breath.
“I mean” I sputtered, “that your work is all around us. You have served this community at many levels, buildings stand because you designed great capital campaigns. The homeless are sheltered, the local artists have venues to display their work and perform, local children are safer.”
“Will you remember me?”
“I know I’ll remember you, Big Al. Everyone will remember you. We will build monuments, or name streets, or set holidays as our homage to you and your example.”
“Of all that I taught you, your only response to my question, is you want to give me a plaque?” He continued to trace a pattern on the ground with his walking stick.
I struggled to understand this conversation. This community had gained so much through Al’s generosity. Services for the needy quietly worked day and night because of his organizational skill and his ability to get folks to work together. There were many folks in this community who had grown, had expanded their capacity to give because Al had taught by example. Giving had become second nature to so many. This was a community that found their heart in their wallets. “That’s what you mean!” I was so excited I slid from my perch. “You want us to remember you in a way that will help your work to continue.”
He smiled softly as he glanced down on me all tangled in his walking stick and some memorial nasturtiums. “Sometimes it is really a challenge to get you from A to B.” He coughed again and continued. “I don’t want my friends to be distracted by my passing. I want them to use it as an opportunity to recommit to this community in all the ways that I value. If that happens, in this little patch of gray humanity, I will have lived for something!” At that he thrust his walking stick into the sky.
The conversation had taken its toll. Al slumped in his seat. An alert groundskeeper came to us and helped Al into his equipment cart. Things happened quickly after that, rescue, resuscitation, an ambulance. But before he was wheeled into the ambulance he looked up at me and asked, “Will you remember me?”
Al Truistini had offered at lot to think about. Many of his friends would do exactly as he wanted. They would be generous to Al’s memory, offering funds to the projects that Al inspired. In years to come, we would continue to remember his kindness and charity. This was Al’s final lesson. And we all would have the answer the next time any of our other committed and generous friends might ask,
“Will you remember me?”
June 2007 Will You Remember Me-