The Legacy of a Smile

By Alexi Venice–

This post might seem like an upside down pizza—messy and all over the place, but if you read me, you know I sometimes have a few subplots percolating. I write how I think, and, at any given time, there are several trains of thought going on, including inner dialogue, usually strung together by a thin thread of commonality. I can only hope to close the loop at the end.

Incidentally, I keep telling Bootie Pepper that my multi-topic, random communications will get better with age. She’s right not to believe me. She’ll be lucky if she can follow any discernable theme or point by the time I reach 55—only two years away.

The heart of this post is about a friend’s legacy: His infectious smile and positive attitude.

Bill Maierhofer passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week. He had a ready smile that I saw often at work in the cafeteria, at meetings, and at the gym where we worked out together. We would chat about outdoor biking as we made our way through the salad bar. In fact, we passed each other on the open road south of town quite a few times. Bill was all legs and lungs, riding his bike FAST through the countryside.

He had an upbeat attitude that was both reassuring and contagious. Easy to talk to, Bill could keep the conversation light or go to a deeper level very quickly, expressing understanding and compassion. He will be remembered by many as a good man, caring doctor, and true friend.

A few years ago, Bill injured his head in a snowboarding accident. He was so transparent, a characteristic I admire, that he posted the CT Scan image of his head on Facebook, teaching us what fluid around the brain looks like. After he rehabbed and returned to work, I saw him in the cafeteria and spontaneously hugged him. I’m not a hugger, but I was genuinely happy to see him back at work, so I just went with it. He heartily accepted my affection with surprise and enthusiasm. Even though I felt a little silly at the time in our formal work environment, I’m REALLY GLAD I HUGGED HIM that day because I won’t get the chance to again. Those pats on the back, acknowledging friendship, meant so much to me then and even more now.

(I hereby retract a lifetime of fulfilling the stereotypical, stern-faced Scandinavian Midwesterner who greeted people with a tip of my chin or a firm handshake. I’m going to hug people more often. In fact, when you see me, feel free to give me a hug. I’ll gleefully accept, as long as it doesn’t get creepy. You know what I mean. I don’t need to sidetrack on what constitutes creepy. If you don’t know what creepy is in this context, then don’t hug me.)

Obtaining closure when a loved one or close friend dies can be an elusive goal. Sometimes, the circumstances surrounding death, especially if it’s a premature death, are unexplained and confusing. I’ve found that there isn’t any satisfaction or reward in perseverating on the “why” question about death.

Instead, I reflect on all the positive energy that person brought to the world, and the memories, attitudes, expressions, gestures and images of that person l want to carry with me on the remainder of my journey. Even though I’ll miss the person terribly, I have faith that when I see that person on the other side, we’ll have a grand reunion, reconnecting with smiles, hugs and animated conversation.

While trying to process life and death, there have been times in my life when I’ve attained clarity of thought, channeling a deeper understanding and perspective about my existence, my purpose, and my goals while here. This type of reflection is heavy lifting, so I can’t do it for very long, but when stuff comes together, even for a brief moment, I’m reassured that I’m on the right path. And, what could be more comforting than that?

I had a calm, philosophical moment the other night when I was standing outside with the dogs before bedtime. The moon was rising on the horizon—big, fat, orange, and crisscrossed by clouds. When I squinted, the clouds took on various shapes, like of North America, a clipper ship, and a ghoulish face.

I was content in a warm breeze that passed over me, the air so thick with moisture that it felt like a soft blanket. Have you ever stood in a breeze and felt completely and totally content as the wind enveloped you like you were submerged in a warm bath? It was like that.

Crickets chirped, and frogs croaked until I didn’t know where their singing ended and the ringing in my ears began. I stood a quarter of a mile from the local watering hole, Myrtle’s Pond, which is teeming with life this time of year. I can only imagine the little critters hopping around in the muck down there. I’m pretty sure Shrek lives in Myrtle’s Pond.

Anyway, it was a glorious night. An easy night. No conflict. No manmade noise. Domestic bliss prevailed with peaceful sounds on my small patch of earth.

From outer space, I was merely a spec held in place by gravity in the universe’s embrace. Insignificant, yet here, breathing, living and thriving. I had this strange feeling like I had stood here before—not on that same spot of earth—but in that same moment, looking at the moon and stars, reflecting on life, seeking clarity.

Was I on Earth in a previous life? Where will I go next? Did I live a purposeful life in my previous life? Am I living a purposeful life in this life? Will I do better in my next life? What will my legacy be when I die? How will people remember me? How do I want to be remembered?

While I can’t answer all of these questions in this post (stay tuned for future posts), I can make sense of the immediacy of my existence. I’m grateful. And happy. Maybe even joyous. Why? Because of the people (and dogs) I’ve known and loved. People like Bill Maierhofer.

While not without struggles, I’ve lived a blessed life. Who hasn’t had struggles? All I can do is cherish the time I have, making the most of it with loved ones, and enjoy celebrations of love and connection. I have some cherished friends and family who taught me how to have fun and act silly after my son passed. Giving myself permission to have fun again was a big deal after grieving. Along with forgiveness, the ability to have fun while carrying grief takes dedication and practice.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from those who have passed before me, it is that I will forever hold in my core the joyous and loving moments I had with them. Their smiles are imprinted on my heart, and what better legacy is that?

I’ve had the privilege of knowing some spectacular people. Not a day goes by without seeing my son’s intelligent blue eyes, his handsome face, his playful voice, his athletic body, and his hands playing the piano. The way he saw the world was different, insightful, filled with color, causing a cataclysmic shift in the way I view life. I’m grateful for his legacy, and know we’ll stay connected no matter where he is in the universe.

Today, in remembrance of my friend, Bill Maierhofer, I wish him all the best on his next journey. I’ll think of him when I’m biking down Town Hall Road, and I’ll see his smile and feel his energy. I’m grateful for remembering him the way I do.

God bless you and carpe diem.

One thought

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s