Each December, to mark the end of the year, the New York Times magazine produces a magazine with one page reflections on some of the people who have left this earth in the past year. Called “The Lives They Lived,” it’s neither macabre nor a reflection on the lives of the particularly famous. But it is a thoughtful tribute to the lives of people who were meaningful in their world and, often, by extension, the larger world as well.
The tributes are sometimes sentimental, though never cloying. They don’t gloss over the weaknesses of these humans, though as reflections on people who have passed they are more completed pictures of lives lived, and quite often lived in an interesting fashion.
As is the case every year, there are people whom I knew of (Stuart Scott; Kathryn Barnard; Lisa Boncheck Adams) and people whom I didn’t know very well and now know better (Claude Sitton; Elizabeth Wilson) and people whom I didn’t know at all (Augusta Chiwy; Mira Rothenberg) and now wished I had. There are stories of people who found meaning in life even in years or decades where there was precious little to be found (Glenn Ford, and wow, the world was hard on this man).
The edition sits by my Spring garden catalogs as my joint partners in the new year. One collection of readings reminds me of the future to be planned and the other remembers a past that landed us squarely into that future. Together, they are also a reminder that we must go forth and do our part to leave the world a little better off than when we found it. After two weeks of very restful holiday, I am back at school today, determined again to do my part to make better the lives lived in my orbit.