How Will You Be Remembered?

Do you ever wonder, “How do people feel in my presence? How would I be remembered if I died today?” I have been pondering these two questions since our dear friend Hugh Prather died suddenly of a heart attack on November 15, 2010. Reflecting upon all our times with him, I realized that I always felt loved in his presence. Though he was a national icon, he remained humble and caring. I will always remember him as a friend who truly knew how to love. For Hugh, loving was far more important than his many writing and speaking accomplishments.

Hugh was the bestselling author of Notes to Myself, which started out as a personal journal. On a whim in 1970 he sent the journal to a small publisher, one without any financial means to do advertising. The book was published and has sold over five million copies and has been translated into ten languages. The New York Times called him the American Khalil Gibran, and his books have been called the “Chicken Soup for the 70’s Soul.”

While he lived in Santa Cruz with his family, we were able to visit him and his wife Gayle quite often. One would never know that he was a famous person. Rather than putting any attention on his own success, he focused all of his energy on helping us with our successes in life. No matter what topic we were talking about, I could look over at him and he would be smiling and loving both Barry and me. I felt consistently wonderful just being in his presence, and remember leaving those visits feeling his love and belief in us.

In 1989 we lost our home to the big California earthquake. Hugh and Gayle also suffered extensive damage to their home as well. When they learned that we were in worse shape than they were, they dedicated two weeks to helping us, along with our two small girls and infant son, move into another home. This was an extremely difficult time for us, and yet Hugh’s eyes, always filled with love and compassion, helped to sustain me. Even in my suffering it felt so good to be in his presence.

I am quite sure that Hugh hoped and planned to live many more years. He probably had at least ten more books on his creative list. In fact, he just finished his latest book on the last day of his life.

A sudden death could happen to any of us, at any age, at any phase of our life. How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered for the criticism you gave, the resentment you wouldn’t let go of, or the apology you refused to give? Do you want people to think of you as dishonest, drinking too much and causing suffering, being uncaring and insensitive, controlling and bullying others, or complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. No one wants to be remembered in these ways.

I am quite sure that everyone reading this would want to be remembered as someone who loved and cared. Therefore it is always good to ask ourselves these reflective questions. “How do people feel in my presence? How will I be remembered?” Perhaps it’s time to give that apology, let go of that particular resentment, give the acknowledgment and appreciation that is long overdue, and express your gratitude to another.

I’ll never forget Hugh Prather. I may forget his many accomplishments, but I will never forget the consistent love that he showed. In his presence I felt loved and honored as a human being. I know that he offered this same gift to all those who were blessed to know him, especially his devoted wife and two sons. In my mind, that is a life well lived.

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