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MRS. MURFREESBORO: Memorials bring thoughts on life

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Jeanne Bragg

Although it may sound somber, I enjoy reading stories at the end of a year about about people who have passed.

"CBS Sunday Morning" recently featured these types of stories, and those involved with the film industry were spotlighted during the recent Golden Globe Awards.

Among those in 2012 were Sally Ride, 61, who was the first American woman in space, 82-year-old Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, as well as Andy Griffith, 86, who philosophized about an idyllic life in Mayberry and Nora Ephron, 71, one of my favorite writers who died from a blood disorder.

Then there are those 20 kindergarteners in Newtown, Conn., who with six adults, died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre.

Teacher Rachel D’Avino, 29, left the world without knowing that her father had given permission to her fiancée to surprise her with an engagement ring on Christmas Eve. How very sad.

I discovered “The Lives They Lived” through a link in the New York Times Magazine, spotlighting lives of noteworthy people who passed in 2012.

Among them were Phyllis Diller, Dave Brubeck, Lesley Brown, the mother of the first “test-tube” baby, and children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who wrote “Where the Wild Things Are.”

“Abstract Sunday,” was an illustrated tribute to Sendak by author and graphic designer Christoph Niemann and was accompanied by a 2011 interview with National Public Radio host Terry Gross.

Gross started out the conversation by saying, “I think having friends who die, getting older, getting closer to the at the end of life tests peoples’ faith -- it also tests people’s atheism, and it sounds like your atheism is staying strong.”

Sendak said he was not unhappy about becoming old ,but it made him cry when he saw his friends go before him.

He did not believe in afterlife, but with a crack in his voice, he said he “did fully expect to see my brother again.”

He was reading a biography of British artist Samuel Palmer who interpreted nature as he did, but noted: “He believed in God, you see, and he believed in heaven and he believed in hell. Goodness, gracious, that must have made life much easier. It’s harder for us non-believers, but it’s something I’m finding out as I am aging. That I am in love with the world.

"And I look out as we speak ... and see my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old ... and I can take time to see how beautiful they are. It is a blessing to get old; it is a blessing ....to find the time to read the books and listen to the music ... I don’t think I’m rationalizing this is all inevitable, and I have no control over it. I have nothing but praise for my life. I am not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die and I can’t stop them, They leave me ... and I love them more ... There are so many beautiful things in the world, which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

He then went on to tell Gross that she was the only person who brought those sentiments out in him and he was so grateful it was she who interviewed him.

He then said, with an obviously tearful voice, “Almost certainly I’ll go before you go, so I won’t have to miss you. I’m a happy old man ... but I’ll cry all the way to the grave.”

It was then Gross whose breath was taken away as he ended by saying, "I wish you all good things. Live your life, live your life, live your life.”

I highly recommend going online to The New York Times to explore “The Lives They Led 2012.” Then scroll down to “The Lives They Loved ” for stories and photos contributed by readers about people close to them who died this year.

If you can do so without shedding a tear, I’ll be surprised.

And let me know if you think Sendak got to see his brother again.

‘Til next week.

Jeanne Bragg may be contacted at jbragg@murfreesboropost.com.

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Family, Mrs Murfreesboro, Religion, Voices
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