A life well lived, making a difference

By Reade Brower | Jun 26, 2014

“There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.” — Washington Irving, writer (1783-1859).

Funerals and memorial services are always tough, more so when it includes parents laying to rest their children. The sadness created is overwhelming.

Last week I went to services for Forest Priestly, an 18-year-old exceptional young person whose high school class recently graduated from Camden Hills Regional High School. That Friday I joined an overflowing crowd at the Rockport Opera House to remember and memorialize a life cut short by a brain tumor.

I did not know this young man intimately but have a connection through his immediate family. Listening to his grammar school teacher, his music instructor and his entire cross-country team gave one a sense of what a remarkable impact one person can make and how the “ripple” works.

One after another told about his uniqueness; a quality that immediately endeared him in my eyes. Stories about impish behavior and zest for life was mixed with the tenderness that only a grieving mother and father could share with the audience.

Not only did this teen have a developed soul, but he brought others in with a passion that seemed ahead of his time. The memorial did more than honor him; it granted the community the opportunity to get to know him and to get a sense of what he stood for.

It allowed some closure for a recently graduated high school class to honor their friend and a chance to find a permanent place in their hearts for their classmate. The community and his family could also gather and remember moments together and the feelings at both the Opera House and the after party at his mother’s home were palatable.

As I remember his cross-country teammates telling the story of their ritual of gathering at the finish line so they could create the chorus of “run Forest, run” as he came across the final stretch, I felt the comfort that, though too short and too much undone, it was a life well lived.

Many parents who share children of similar age could only leave thinking about sneaking in an extra hug and an “I love you” when we next see or talk to them.

In the meantime, I will keep this young soul’s work as motivation; he lived everyday with abundance and, while a self-admitted rule follower, he found his unique and quirky ways to create the life of what my son called, “the coolest nerd ever!”

It gives me pause and a chance to reflect on the power of youth and to never dismiss what can be learned from a life well lived.

In honor of Forest and the other children of our land who perished too young, Onward!

*****

“Action is eloquence.” — William Shakespeare, playwright and poet (1564-1616).

I read with interest a story last week by Dwight Collins in The Camden Herald about Alison McKellar. She is another inspiring young person who is making a difference in the world. Alison is creating tents for refugees in Syria and the story, in itself, is remarkable.

Alison takes on the injustice of the “innocents of war” as she recalls to Dwight her studying of the Holocaust and exploring how the world could allow it to happen.

She then speaks about the “bystander behavior effect” where it is widely documented in studies that the more people watching an injustice, the less likely it is for someone to act”.

Waiting for and expecting that others will do what is right is the theory behind doing nothing, except perhaps looking away, when injustice is staring you right in the face.

Alison is a “yes” person and a person that understands the concept of stepping up. She is helping the homeless and displaced children of a horrible civil war, one recycled shrink wrap tent at a time.

That is “making a difference” in a real sense. Alison, you rock!

*****

Pay it forward. Turn the page!

Reade Brower can be reached at reade@freepressonline.com.

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