Title: Marks of a Well-Lived LifeDoc died recently, and I was honored to be part of a memorial service for him yesterday. It was a celebration. It was fun. But it also made me focus again on the marks of a well-lived life.
Date: For the Week of June 23, 2008
Charles Merryman was an incredibly bright man. He finished high school at 15, completed an undergraduate college degree at 19, and hung out his shingle as an M.D. when he was only 22. He chose to practice in a rural area and to bring high-quality medical care to people whom he regarded as friends. A neurosurgeon at his memorial service spoke of his skill as a diagnostician.
As we settled onto the plane that would take my wife and me to be with his beloved Maggie, I opened the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal and worked my way through it. When I came to the Opinion page, a piece by Peggy Noonan grabbed my attention. "A Life's Lesson" was the title, and it was another of many reflections produced last week about the late Tim Russert.
"When somebody dies, we tell his story and try to define and isolate what was special about it - what it was he brought to the party, how he enhanced life by showing up. In this way we educate ourselves about what really matters. Or, often, re-educate ourselves, for 'man needs more to be reminded than instructed.' . . .
"In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, made it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, 'The thing about Joe was he was rich.' We say, if we can, 'The thing about Joe was that he took care of people.'
"The young are told, 'Be true to yourself.' But so many of them have no idea, really, what that means. If they don't know who they are, what are they being true to? They're told, 'The key is to hold firm to your ideals.' But what if no one bothered, really, to teach them ideals?"
Ms. Noonan's words were prescient and useful for Doc's eulogy that I would deliver the next day. He was a good man who had used his talents well. He was generous. He encouraged others and bolstered their self-confidence. He laughed easily and sincerely. He loved so many - and a few of us really, really well.
Did he have flaws? Was there any clay in his feet? Oh, that was one of his best traits. He knew his flaws, had long ago confessed them to God and man, and lived in daily gratitude for God's amazing grace in his life.
I've lost a dear friend. But his death has made me think about important things. I hope Doc's passing will cause you to think about living your life well.