Have you ever been touched deeply by someone you barely knew?
On May 1, 2013 a man named Wally Collins passed away. A few short years ago I sang at his wedding as he married one of the people I hold most dear, Mary McClean. They shared a brief, but beautiful love. It was moving to witness. Wally fought hard to stay on this earth to be with Mary and his family as long as possible. He defied the odds over and over right until the end.
As I sat down on Sunday to prepare the songs his family had asked me to sing at his funeral, a very rare thing happened. You see long ago I played in the occasional coffee house and have even written a few songs. The last time I was that inspired to write a song was 13 years ago when my daughter was born. This time I literally had to dust off my guitar to prepare, and as I did inspiration struck. Within an hour a new song poured out of me.
I had known Wally for only 4 of his 89 years. He had been quite ill through most of that time which is why I say I barely knew him. Yet somehow he had touched my life deeply.
As I listened to the stories told by the generations of people whose lives Wally had touched and guided, I was no longer surprised by the deep effect he had on me. He was clearly the patriarch of his family – a benevolent, loving, and kind servant. He was clearly a leader who left a remarkable imprint on the lives he touched that can be summed up in one word: love.
He left a legacy in many respects, but the one I want to highlight here is his emotional legacy. It was the way he made people feel in his presence and about themselves that is perhaps the most important legacy of his life. It was in the simplest of gestures that he continued to find a way to let those around him know they were loved and that they truly mattered.
Wally demonstrated leadership in simple actions, every day throughout his life. What legacy will you leave through your actions today?
P.S. Here is the song I wrote in memory of my friend Wally. Thank you, Wally, for reminding me that love lives forever.