June 02, 2004

Last Friday, I happened to cross paths with a student with whom I had shared a degree programme, whom I had not seen in nearly ten years. She was working, I was running for a bus. This morning, we crossed paths again: and this time we were able to set a firm meeting time for later that day, by way of catching up. As it happened, I was wearing a motto'ed shirt from the hospital organ donation programme: "Don't Take Your Organs To Heaven ... Heaven Knows We Need Them Here."

Within five minutes, although I don't think she originally intended it: I learned that her son had been killed in a traffic accident last month.

I pulled on my sweater. She did not mention the shirt. It would be difficult to think that she did not notice it, it was not a particularly subtle thing. By the direction of the subsequent telling, she was kind enough to have accepted complete coincidence, and to either have overlooked it or to have gone past it. Considering that the two most common platitudes told her in "real" life in the past month were "Everything has a meaning" and "It was his time", it was exceptionally generous of her.

She knew her son was very active on-line, although she had never felt the need to be more involved in that part of his life. In the midst of shock, she took the extra effort to let those who knew him on-line know what had happened.

She discovered that her son had been part of a thriving community. He had helped build it. Hundreds of people she had never known about had had their lives changed for the better by him. Hundreds of people she had never really known about remembered him. Memorial pages were raised. On a day announced in advance they took her among them and showed her their world and what her son had built.

We are mortal, each and every individual one of us; and we live with that uncertainty hanging over us each and every day. We cannot know at what point all the could-have-accomplished will be abruptly severed. I would hope to leave life a little better for those who remain behind.

I think he succeeded.

Smile of the day:

A kindergarten teacher, observing her classroom of children while they drew, would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork. One little girl was working particularly diligently, so the teacher stopped and asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I am drawing God."

The teacher paused: "But no one knows what God looks like."

Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing the girl replied, "They will in a minute."

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