Icelander Baldur Hedinsson can trace his lineage to 1075; that’s how complete the Icelandic records are. It’s a culture based on reading through the dark winters and they wrote, too. (Oh, to have been an Icelander!) When NPR’s David Kestenbaum asked Baldur what followed his name in the Icelandic record of settlement, Baldur said, “Nothing yet. Just that I was born in Reykjavik.” The national record is already there, waiting for him to leave his mark. (Interview)

We all leave a legacy, for good or ill, and we seem to expend the most effort toward the public victories: the publishing, the championship, the contract, the job, the case, the deal, the ribbon cutting, the award.

Today I’ll attend the funeral of a high-powered New York journalist/marketing expert who had a life like that. Yet that’s not how I knew her. In her early 40s, illness had laid her low, refined her, and placed her in our path. I knew her as rescuer of a feral cats, chair of potlucks, best friend to an eleven-year-old boy, champion of dreams, watcher of cartoons. She was on the mend and she had the convertible to prove it. Her friends and family sighed with relief. No more worrying that she wouldn’t make it.

And then she didn’t make it. Nothing left to worry about, except to live up to those dreams she wanted to help us complete. And if we’re really something, we’ll be remembered for something even better, a good neighbor.

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.