Monday, August 27, 2012
The legacy for me
July 20, 1969. Were were leaving on vacation late at night (to get a head start on driving) with a family friend, and we sat around Mrs. Grogan's black and white TV watching Neil Armstrong step down on the moon before we left. Now tributes are pouring in on what an extraordinary man he was, how he could have had anything after his milestone journey, but he chose to stay out of the spotlight and shun publicity. I even read where he didn't make a habit of signing autographs "to be sold to the highest bidder."
So don't offer me any money for this little gem above. Maybe he took pity on me since I was in high school, maybe my letter was irresistibly eloquent (unfortunately, I didn't keep a copy), but for whatever reason, after I wrote him an admiring letter, Neil Armstrong mailed me this photograph which I have treasured ever since.
All the tributes in the media really made me think. Society has the custom of heaping praise on people once they're dead. Everywhere there are eulogies, documentaries, dignitaries weighing in on the important influence this or that deceased person has had on society. All well and good. Do we ever think to tell them while they're alive? Sometimes not, at least not to this degree.
I remember on my mom's 70th birthday, we held a surprise party for her in the hall of her church. Old friends came, relatives from near and far as well, and all the guests signed their names in the guest book. I recall as I looked through the guest book, I had the vision for a moment that it was a memorial book - you know, the kind they have in funeral homes. But it wasn't in memory of - it was in honor of - and I can tell you with a smile how much fun we all had that day. My sister and her husband had made a video of Mom's life up to that point, with interviews from family and friends, which Mom just about cried through - and all were extolling Mom's generosity, her caring nature, her compassion, her faithfulness - in other words, everything one would say at a funeral except the honoree was very much alive and getting to hear all the wonderful comments.
I'm glad Neil Armstrong is being hailed as a humble hero, for he truly was. I just hope he realized how much he meant to this country and to us as individuals before he left us. I wish that for everyone. This week, call someone up, write a letter, or go visit the people you care about, the people who have made your life better, the friends, role models or teachers who have influenced you in unforgettable ways, whether famous or not, and let them know how much they mean to you, while they are still around to hear it.
Farewell, Neil Armstrong. Thanks for making a high schooler's day brighter.