Last week I was fortunate to join the most remarkable retirement celebration I’ve ever attended. Paul Herman, the Head of the Lower School at St. Albans here in Washington (where my son is an alum), was celebrated for 44 years of service. There are many wonderful things I can share about Paul, but I’ll stick to one example. Each day he stands outside the school and greets every student by name, gives them a firm handshake, looks them in the eye, and offers up an encouraging word (or a reminder to tuck in a shirt tail). If he doesn’t remember a name after the first week, he pays the student a dollar. Suffice it to say he rarely has to pay. Candice and I hadn’t seen Mr. Herman in at least four years, but as we were next in the receiving line he looked up and said, “Great, here come the Browns” and gave us a warm greeting. He has an amazing gift to make people feel included and welcome.
The center nave of Washington National Cathedral was packed with those saluting Mr. Herman, and the service for thanksgiving was filled with exceptional readings and reflections. The one that struck me the most was the final reading, from “On Light and Worth: Lessons from Medicine,” by Bernadine Healy, M.D. It was given on May 29, 1994 as part of a commencement address at Vassar College, and I would like to share it with you.
“As a physician who has been deeply privileged to share the most profound moments of people’s lives, including their final moments, let me tell you a secret. People facing death don’t think about what degrees they have earned, what positions they have held, or how much wealth they have accumulated. At the end, what really matters is who you loved and who loved you. The circle of love is everything and is a good measure of a past life. It is the gift of greatest worth.”
At this time when we are too often reminded that life is short, look for a way to share your gifts, and have a good week.
More to come…