Here’s to you, Neil!

by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Faith Community Educator

don't_speak_ill_of-othersMy very good, high school friend, Lynne, with whom I’ve stayed in touch for many years, first shared the devastating news last summer that her younger brother, Neil, age 55, had gotten cancer.  In fact, he was scheduled for an operation December 5 of this year, and we were holding on to the hope that surgery could eradicate his disease.  In the meantime, he went through many rounds of radiation therapy to try to shrink the cancerous tumors.  Unfortunately, Neil had a rare and fast-growing disease and died on December 19, 2014.

Before Neil died he gave his parents a rare gift — the ability to see their son through the eyes of his friends.  “What his parents saw is a man who accepted and cared for his friends for exactly who they were, where they were, and what they were, with no judgments whatsoever.  He made no effort to change them, and fiercely challenged anything negative said about them.”  At Neil’s Service of Celebration , his nephew’s wife Lauren, shared letters that his friends wrote to him when they learned he was ill.  One particular friend wrote, “In all the years I knew Neil, I never heard him say anything negative about anyone – not even once.”

In considering how to best honor Neil, my thought went to the beliefs of the Jewish tradition.  Here’s why.  When a person of the Jewish faith dies, family and friends don’t send flowers.  Instead, they consider one of the most positive qualities of the person they wish to emulate and make a commitment to ‘take on’ that person’s character trait.  The belief is that in so doing, they keep the spirit of the person alive.

You may call it a New Year’s resolution, but I call this desire to not speak ill of another person — ever — my commitment to honor and uplift Neil Smith’s life, an excellent son, brother, uncle, cousin, good friend, surfer, carpenter, artist, lover of nature, the ocean, and God’s creation, so that his spirit will continue to live; that is, by embodying his good character.  Here’s to you, Neil!  You were a man of few words, but you used them wisely and well.  May God’s grace help me to do the same.

Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, end of life, hospice

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3 Comments on “Here’s to you, Neil!”

  1. David Bayer Says:

    Love the thought of taking on one of a person’s most positive qualities … keeping their spirit alive. Nice article

  2. Erin Branham Says:

    Beautiful tradition, beautiful sentiment to honor Neil.

  3. Nancy Cole Says:

    I love your commitment to keep Neil’s spirit alive. It’s a resolution that many people should keep every day. Nicely written.

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