Last week I farewelled my father who had recently passed away. Dad was 92. My sister Anna, brother Richard, and I delivered the eulogy at the Memorial Service. While it was the hardest speech I have ever delivered, it was also one of celebration due to the life that Dad had led.
Why do I share this story? Firstly, to express my gratitude that Dad died peacefully, that his life left a strong legacy of generosity to others, and that he had a family that he loved and loved him. Secondly, I share this story to invite you to that place of reflection I found myself in last week as I contemplated the nature of the legacy we would like to leave behind.
Martin Luther King Jr articulated his moment of similar reflection when he contemplated what he would prefer to hear as a eulogy at his own funeral, stating, ‘don’t mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize – that isn’t important. Don’t mention that I have 300 or 400 other awards – that’s not important. I want you to be able to say that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that I did try in my life to clothe the naked. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.’
Imagine, like Martin Luther King Jr, a best friend or family member is reflecting on your life. What would they say about you? What would you want them to say? Would you want them to make mention of the fact you go to school in Kew, or would you want them to say you were a really good friend to others at school? Would you want them to make note of the latest fashion labels you purchased whilst shopping, or the laughter you shared with friends whilst making those purchases? Would you want them to describe your holiday destination, or would you want them to share those amazing moments where the friends and family, rather than the place, was the only thing that mattered?
It is this focus on people and the enhancement of being community-minded rather than me-centred that reflects the nature of our Baptist Christian School. The words of the New York Rabbi, Harold Kushner, who is now in his 80s, are often used to provide a reminder of that need for perspective. He said, ‘Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.’
As we have seen throughout this year, Carey is a very special school community where the expectation is that each student is valued, with many opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. Learning is at the heart of what we do, as together we endeavour to support each student to grow and thrive. A key part of that learning – whether in or on a science laboratory, history class, sporting field, or stage – is how vital it is for each of us to continue to learn how to communicate and form strong relationships.
There are words from First Corinthians 13 that isolate three key ingredients in life: ‘faith, hope and love’. The scripture then asserts that ‘the greatest of these is love’. School is a place of learning, and a key element of that learning at Carey is building friendships, so that your legacy is one with a focus on people rather than possessions. I hope that you and your family have a lovely Christmas and a great holiday that is filled with hope, faith and, most of all, that you feel a genuine sense of love from those around you.