My aunt died today. We knew it was coming, but that never actually helps once the time comes. From the day we are born we know what's in store for us, yet for the vast majority of our lives we deny that inescapable fact. Some of us get a warning when it's our time, some of us don't, but the ending is always the same.
In her final days, as we received updates about her hospice care and pain medications, I couldn't help but think about her impact on my life. I don't know what she desired to accomplish, I don't know what regrets she carried with her, all I know is that a constant in my life is gone.
As I've gone through my collection of family photos, there are photos of her with my mother when she was a baby, photos of her when her kids were young, then photos of her with those same kids as they went through college and got married and had children of their own. There were photos of her holding me as a baby, and at my high school graduation, and as recently as last Thanksgiving. She was always there. She wasn't perfect, but she was always loving, and she was a big part of my small family.
The timing of her passing is funny in a way because we were at her house on June 17, 1994 - the day OJ Simpson lead police on the most surreal chase of all time, while the Knicks battled the Huston Rockets in the NBA Finals. Almost 22 years later the OJ Simpson trial is back in the headlines and the Knicks are still breaking our hearts. We were in her house when Mike Tyson decided to bite off Evander Holyfield's ear. We spent Christmas at her house when I got Super Nintendo. Yes, these ridiculous things are what come to mind when I think about her. They seem small, but of course they're not.
I'm sure she had many other moments like this with all the people in her life. Moments that will stand out and stick in their minds long after this initial sadness passes. She has two great sons who are raising their own families. They're creating their own memories now, and life will go on.
How do you interact with the people in your life on a day-to-day basis? How do you think they'll remember you when you're gone? I talk about this theme a lot on this website, because I think it's a great way to clarify our thinking and to keep things in perspective. Ultimately it's just about asking yourself every day: If it all ends tomorrow, is this how I want to be remembered - is this what I want my life to mean?
Please take some time today and reflect on your own life. Look at where you're going and what you're creating. One day, there won't be any more tomorrows. Start being the person you want to become right now. Treat people well. Be good to your family. Focus on living well. One day you'll be gone and all you'll leave behind are the impressions you made on others. What will those impressions say about you?
I'm always reading the biographies of great men and women who I aspire to emulate. If I never reach those heights, I'll be content going to my grave knowing that people thought of me the way that my brother and I felt about my aunt. I'll be content knowing my brother feels about me, the way her sisters feel about her. And if I'm lucky I'll be able to leave behind great children, as she has, to grow and expand my legacy far beyond any place I could've imagined. I can only hope to be so lucky.