remembered: last words and final acts

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on February 7, 2010

A fellow soon-to-be PCT, autostereogram, directed me to Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk is on music and passion. I dig Zander’s talent and his “shining eyes” but his takeaway message is what got to me. It’s especially relevant and completely appropriate considering there are a million topics and themes I’d like to write about before I report for PC duty.

So now I have one last thought, which is that it really makes a difference what we say. The words that come out of our mouth. I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old, and her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. And she told me this, she said,”We were in the train going to Auschwitz and I looked down and saw my brother’s shoes were missing. And I said, “Why are you so stupid, can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?” — the way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother. Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him because she never saw him again. He did not survive. And so when she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow. She told me this. She said, “I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.” Now, can we do that? No. And we’ll make ourselves wrong and others wrong. But it is a possibility to live into.

I think last words and final acts are just as (or even more) important than first impressions. People don’t always remember the first time they meet you. If you spend enough time with them, you can to make an impression on their life while you’re in it. If life confronts you with a fork in the road and your paths unexpectedly diverge, I think it best to part on a positive note with others even when the circumstances separating you are not ideal.

Most people have been on both sides – the giving and receiving end of departures – myself included, obviously. When I left China, I didn’t give my very first study abroad, and might I add very good, friend a proper goodbye.  I sent emails soon after I returned to the US but didn’t receive any replies. That has stuck with me since. On the flip side, I’ve experienced a few negative departures. Irrespective of the words exchanged during the time I knew them, one of my most vivid memories of them are of the way they left.

One chance to make a first impression, one opportunity to make a lasting impression.

You never know if/when you might encounter those people again. If you do cross paths with them in the future, you want them to recall the positive attitude you left them with. If you have mutual acquaintances, you want others to share their good memories of you. If you don’t ever meet again, you want people to remember you for that positive attitude you left them with.

Six degrees (or less) of separation and it is a small world after all. How do you want to be remembered?

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