Properly Honored Memories

I looked around the table and immediately felt guilty. Envious looks from the senior crowd spoke volumes. They were saying, “What I wouldn’t give for your problems, kid.”

These long-retired people would finish their meal, then wander down the hall to their beds, watch some TV, and hope that they woke up in the morning (in some cases, maybe hope they didn’t), and here I was beefing about the “drain and strain” of life.

I learned a lot that day.

We Need To Know We Matter

Because of that day, I developed a simple philosophy (and like most of my conclusions, it is just a restatement of the obvious): “Every human needs to know he/she once mattered.”

Whether retiring, moving on to another job or watching a child leave home, that newly severed person needs to hear that if that contribution of the past makes tomorrow better for just one person, then their whole life has meaning.

So take the time.

Take the moment and speak the extra words that make someone’s day. It takes so little to make such a difference.

After that day at the nursing home, I bought one of those multi-picture frames at the drug store, and put a picture of each of Grandma’s great-grandchildren in it. I brought it to the nursing home and talked with her about each kid and reminded her how pivotal she had been in their lives. I reminded her how she used to read to Nicco when he was a toddler. How she helped my daughters with the problems of growing up. How kind and generous she had been through the years. We laughed about the stack of $5 bills she kept in her drawer to give to the kids. She laughed and cried, and it was an endearing moment I’ll never forget.

The frame sat next to her bedside for the rest of her days, and many was the time I would walk in and find her awake in bed, with her head cocked to the side, just staring at the pictures, eyes wet with emotion and memory.

Another good friend retired last week, one who had been here during the problems of the previous administration and who had seen us through to the current and successful administration. As she left the building following the plaque presentation that marked those years, I called to her. “I remember what you did.”

I looked to her husband as she embraced me. “She was the safe harbor for a lot of us when things were really challenging,” I told him. He smiled his appreciation, his throat tight. She looked deep into my eyes, both of us choked back the emotion, and we went on our way–10 seconds of my life handing both of us a lifetime of properly honored memories. Be generous with your heart, my friends. It’s so easy, and it feels so right. The love that it harvests is really the only thing any of us wants.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail at

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