Of No Consequence?
Today my friend Annie at McGuffy's Reader wrote a blog post entitled A Lonely Grave about a single gravesite located between two truckstops off I-70 in Pennsylvania. The grave marker states that the man buried there died in 1818 at the age of 41. Not a great deal more is known about him. One of the comments on her post said that "Perhaps he was a man of no consequence, if there can be such a thing." That set my mind to thinking...
Is it possible that anyone could be of such insignificance that his living or dying was of no consequence to the world? When I visit old cemeteries, or gravesites like the one pictured above, I always wonder about the person whose physical remains are buried there. He had a mother and a father, what was his childhood like? Was he a loved and valued member of his family, or were his early years marked with neglect or abuse? Was he well fed or did he go hungry? Did he laugh more than he cried?
What about when he grew up? Did he marry and raise a family? Were there children and wife to mourn his sudden demise? Forty one really isn't very old, even though folks generally didn't live as long back then as they do now.
Where did he live, did he have a good home? In the country or the city? How did he earn a living? Was he wealthy or poor? Was he a man of good character, or was he the town drunk or ne'er do well?
We will probably never know the answers, but it brings forth another and perhaps more important question.... Even if he was the lowliest member of the community, was his life of value? What if he was homeless, or a drunk, or a drug addict, or a wife-beater? No value at all then?
I once had a co-worker who used to refer to people he deemed unworthy as "a waste of skin." How that remark used to rile me! Sometimes it is easy to look upon such people with an uncaring heart or even with contempt or scorn, but is it fair to say that their life had no meaning or purpose at all,? Would it truly have made no difference if they were never born? Would it perhaps in some cases be better if they had never lived at all?
What about people like Adolf Hitler, at whose hands so many suffered and died? Would the world have been a better place if he had never lived? Or is it likely that someone else would have been born to fill that role, to take that place in the grand scheme of life. Would the ultimate outcome of that horrible time just have been played out on a different stage in another way? I don't know the answer to that anymore than anyone really does, at least while they remain in the realm of the living.
I do know what I believe though, and that is that each individual is imbued with spirit, and that together as a whole we make up life, along with all created things; each is a piece of the puzzle which is essential to the entire picture, and puzzle with one piece missing is a sad work of art indeed.
Whether or not anyone remembers the man buried in the grave near the truckstop, or remembers anything of you or me after we are gone, I want to think that in some way he made a difference, and hopefully that I did too.