"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" . . . had I kept a running tally of the many times I've phrased those words while looking into tear-filled eyes, I would be adding another today. But I dare say I couldn't come close to giving an accurate total and really wouldn't want to; for to do so, in some sense I would have to deny the uniqueness of each life by reducing it to a minor part of a greater statistical whole. As it is, with enough prompting I can remember names and faces and personalities and even a bit of the journey we shared - though I must confess the need for a few more clues with each passing year . . . perhaps it's an age thing.
My friend was eighty-one; the conversations in the days surrounding his death centered on who he was: a gentle man and a gentleman, understanding and compassionate, a faithful man and a man of faith, honest and humble . . . the descriptors were feeble efforts to capture the intangible essence of who he was. When I buried a friend forty years his junior last year, the conversational focus was quite different, underscoring what he had done: awards received, degrees earned, business promotions, athletic prowess, social standing . . . all were glowing appraisals of his many tangible accomplishments. Both men lived and both men died - one left a legacy while the other left a résumé . . . perhaps it's an age thing.