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NeujahrAround this time last Saturday — just one week ago even though it already seems like last month — I was waiting anxiously in a hospital basement with my husband, our young daughter, and many others. Some of us, like me, were still in our pajamas.

We had been warned about a ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii and this was the real deal. About 20 minutes later, though, another message that appeared on our phones confirmed what most of us had been praying for: a false alarm.

A week has passed, and on my two-mile walk home from work, I pass two grand cemeteries, including the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii. I have no fear of cemeteries. When I was very young, I bought a plot near my beloved grandparents, who had not yet died, in what was known then as the “German cemetery” behind the “German church” in a small mountain town in Pennsylvania settled by Bavarians. Everyone laughed a bit at that time. Now, decades later, a few of my cousins wish they had done the same.

I have always found cemeteries peaceful and fascinating, knowing they are filled with history. Every person who has a place in a cemetery has had a life, some long and fulfilling, others perhaps equally long but lived with some degree of disappointment.

I seldom let my mind go to what for me would be the most tragic stories in a cemetery: lives that ended way too soon and unfairly although it’s a given that life is not always fair.

Since leaving the hospital a week ago that became a temporary shelter for a few hundred people wondering if we were going to live another day, I’ve realized that if it were just me knowing that I had only a few more minutes left, I would be at peace.

For real? Yes. I’m middle aged, and I still have plenty of personal and professional goals, but along with the inevitable lows that come with many hopes and dreams, I’ve also tasted the highs. In fact, I consider myself extremely blessed.

I want my daughter, though, her classmates in her elementary school, the students in the high school where my husband and I work, and for that matter all young people to have their chance.

I’ve decided last Saturday to be more mindful of ways I might be selfish, to be a better parent, friend, teacher and coach, to strive to give more even if I’m nudged out of my comfort zone. It’s a way to give back and to thank all the adults and young people — family, friends, role models (some of whom didn’t even know they were!) — for helping me navigate the intriguing, at times frustrating, but ultimately satisfying and always worthwhile marathon of life I’ve been privileged to live.

 

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