Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Big Question

-There has been a spate of recent deaths of people, young and not, famous and not, that remind me to ask myself the big question. It's the question that I suggest everyone ask themselves upon getting out of bed in the morning.

"What will I do to honor this day?"

Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Kirby Puckett, Darren McGavin, Dana Reeve...are some of the high-profile humans who have recently run out of days.

Last night I attended the wake of a friend who didn't posess a high profile and passed at much too young an age....unexpectedly, unpredictably, unbelievably. This man...Ralph Bertelsman... touched many others with his ready smile, quick wit, and "eager-to-help" approach to life....but is now no longer with us. Ralph worked for the Belleville Parks Department for 28 years. Not what many would consider to be a place where you could do "great things". But, Ralph didn't limit himself to his job in order to positively impact others. He was active in many other ways and places. His major accomplishment? Probably being someone that other people liked to be around.

Ralph honored the majority of his days. It was obvious from the turnout at the funeral home that many others in our community believe so. My wife and I stood in line for over two hours for the opportunity to pay our condolences. There were people from all around the area who came. Parking was hard to find. And, as with all funeral home visits, we saw many people we hadn't seen for some time and asked ourselves..."What is their connection to Ralph? How did he know him? How did she know him? What brought their lives together?"

Whatever the answer to those questions in Ralph's case, by seeing such an enormous turnout, we came to realize that there are so many ways and opportunities to touch another's life in a lasting, positive way. We needn't be a movie or sports star, have a position of political or corporate power, or be rich. Just by asking the above question each morning, we tend to put ourselves in the frame of mind to also honor others we encounter. And, just as importantly, we also face the reality that our opportunity grows shorter with each sunrise.

Much like the central character in the movie Big Fish, Ralph influenced many along the way, besides his family and close friends. Even though he wasn't a President, CEO, or anything close, the impact of his days will always remain. It's the best any of us can really do. Well done Ralph. Thank you for honoring your days.


Mike Embrich said...

In deed, Ralph made us all laugh. May his jokes be told down from heaven. Rest In Peace...

Angie & B.J. Bertelsman said...

Thank you Tom for writing such a nice piece on our father. It means the world to us to know he touched so many people's lives. It's a honor to be his children. Thank you for honoring him.