I went to a memorial service today for the former husband of a dear friend I’ve known for about 20 years now. His death came as a shock to everyone, especially one of his daughters who will be married in just a few weeks.

As I sat in the church and listened to his family and friends speak about the ways that he shared his life with others, it struck me how little I really knew of him. He reached so many people with his work, writing, volunteerism, faith. It was remarkable really, that one many who was not famous or well-known could have touched so many lives.

I wonder if any of us mere mortals will ever truly know the impact our lives have upon others? Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we have people in our lives who share how we’ve influenced or helped them, but mostly we just move together through this world. Unfortunately, it’s not until we’re gone that those who knew us will tell our story, and friends, family, colleagues, and others will come together and finally put us more fully into context.

At dinner tonight another dear friend of ours asked me What do you think people will remember about you when you’re gone? I couldn’t answer her, but it was exactly what I was mulling over. Perhaps, for a brief time this afternoon, we were all brought together by our friend one final time so that we could stop and consider our own time among the living and how we can make it more meaningful. I still can’t answer the question, but I know that we’ve been given a gift in the midst of our grief.