How do you define success?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What makes people remember you when you are gone from this world? Do they remember the type job you had, if there was a title in front of or behind your name? Will they think of you because of the size of your house, the make of your car or the label on the inside of your shirt? Indeed, how do people measure a successful life?

This past week, I got answers to those questions loud and clear in comments made about three people who are no longer walking among us. And while folks mentioned briefly what they did for a living, it was not high on their list of memories when they recalled the people.

The first person’s name was Ron, and his passing touched the entire town of Opp — although he didn’t live there. News of his death brought a flood of comments on Facebook.

Every person recalled his friendliness, the warmth of his smile, and his kindness. All of them called him a “good man.” My mother even mentioned him when we spoke on the phone.

“Sad to hear about Ron,” she said. “He was a fine fellow.”

What did Ron do to garner such praise and so many people mourning his loss? Was he a political leader, a chief of industry, a man of great monetary wealth?

Ron delivered packages for UPS.

For years he came to businesses and homes in the Opp area bringing them the things they ordered. But from the comments, it seems he delivered much more than their “stuff” to them.

I think it was the he treated everyone that made him special. People talked about how he was always friendly, always had a kind word. They spoke of how he touched their lives, and he did it simply by being himself and taking time to be nice to those he met.

June was the second person’s name. She was a friend of several of my friends, and her sudden departure leaves a huge void in their lives.

As I listened to my friend talk about her friend, she barely mentioned what she did for a living. No what she recalled was the way June cared for her family, her friends and those she tried to help through her work.

She said they laughed together; and she spoke of her friend’s compassion. The way June’s family chose to honor her life with a casual, quiet and deeply moving memorial service filled my friend’s heart with both sadness for her loss and joy that she knew her.

Again, here was someone who made a difference in the lives she touched not because she was rich or powerful or any of the measures the world us by. She made an impact because she opened herself to caring and to being authentic in that caring.

The final person was my cousin Guy, who died at the age of 93. As I stood in line at his visitation, I heard things like, “fine man” and “good father.” The love and sweet memories shone in the faces of his family and friends as they embraced and shared memories.

It was the kind of person he was that they remembered, the way his eyes crinkled when he laughed and how he loved to tell a good story.

I didn’t hear talk about his career, or the size of his house. Just kind words about how those who knew him enjoyed knowing him.

Sunday as I sat listening to the rainfall, I thought about the three people laid to rest over the last few days. Did they live successful lives?

I don’t know how the world might answer that question, but if you ask those who knew them, the ones touched and perhaps changed in some way by knowing them, I’m sure their answer is a resounding “Yes!”