Just as I was sitting in a crowded waiting room, watching the utter chaos of 20 distraught pet parents clamor for attention and reassurance while simultaneously managing to be slightly hostile, and thanking myself for never becoming a veterinarian only to face a similar situation day after day, Dr. Laura Moreland was floating through her patients managing to think the exact opposite.
And, don’t we all know those people? The people people. Those who effortlessly seem to smooth the surfaces of human interactions into a softer, more mellifluous thing, rather than the jagged angry melody we all want to avoid.
We remember people people, not necessarily for their accomplishments, but for their interactions. Dr. Morland has spent a lifetime in leadership and philanthropic roles in the veterinary community, but what people remember about her, is her use of soft hands with their scared puppy, or how she gave them an extra grace period on paying their bill because times were hard. That’s the legacy of a people person.
When I think about people people in my own life, I immediately think about Jack and Hazel Cross. They left this earth with a very low property value on their Texas home and a high square footage in their heavenly abode. The interior walls of their garage were absolutely littered with graffiti — every time a child came to have their county fair project’s hooves trimed for free or to pick up a handmade halter that Jack was famous for giving out, they were also given a permanent marker and asked to sign the wall.
By the time I was old enough to write my name, there wasn’t a spare square inch to be had. They had to add boards for extra places for kids to sign.
The contributions they made to those around them were intimate and unique, not things you list out like a resume but instances where thousands of people carry a special memory of them in their heart.
When I started thinking about this column, I started looking for more information on them (mostly because I could not remember what their occupations were, just how they made me feel) and I came across Hazel’s obituary on a blog dedicated to truly exceptional obituaries, and I tend to agree it is superior. You don’t have to have known Hazel or Jack personally to know someone whose obituary should read like this:
Ruby Hazel Shannon Cross, 93, departed from this life December 15, 2011, with two great clouds of witnesses-some saying with tears, “There she goes!” and others saying with shouts of gladness, “Here she comes!”
Hazel was born in Lamar County, Texas, on November 18, 1918, to Jesse Finis and Ada Burton Coble Shannon. She married Jack Marion Cross in Hugo, Oklahoma on March 23, 1940, and launched a life of fun and variety as they moved to accommodate his ranch management career. When he started his foot trimming business and “hit the road”, it was Hazel who held the fort and managed the farm. Wherever they lived, it was always home for their extended family and all their children’s friends. She led many to the Lord, including her husband Jack, by her sweet example, righteous life, and simple teaching style. She mended hurts, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, and brightened the lives of all who knew her. Her homes were always warm and welcoming and where everyone wanted to be. She raised other people’s children as well as her own and loved every minute of it.
Wow. Don’t you want people to remember you like that?
It makes me incredibly sad that the nuances of living this way, of a simple, selfless lifestyle, are so lost on my generation.
We are so caught up in achieving personal comfort and security that our ability to sacrifice small things in the name of extending those luxuries to others has been stymied.
And, we come by these things honestly. It’s not selfishness in our nature that causes us to prioritize safety (both physical and economic). Our formative years were spent facing the reality that people simply attending work were in jeopardy of never coming home (9-11). That things completely out of our control would impact our homes and our futures (2008 financial crisis).
Facing those things in childhood shortened our timeline. Sure, people are living longer now than ever before, but it simultaneously feels as if the future is balanced on the teetering edge of disaster.
The mental and emotional strength to set aside those personal goals in the name of improving life for those around us is incredibly rare.
I don’t know that I have that.
But I also know, that when Hazel Cross was 29 years old, she probably didn’t know if she had the mental fortitude to leave a legacy either. She was probably caught up in the day-to-day. In making sure the babies were safe and happy and fed, that the cows were home, the fences mended and water fresh.
I wish there was a legacy litmus test, a way to test the waters and know before it’s too late that you’re making the right kind of impact.
But, I guess in this instance pure intentions pave the way. The only way to succeed is to try.
Before I leave you, I have to also share that as I was looking this up, I realized the pastor that presided over her funeral was from Winfield, and it seems like each time I go back and prepare these stories for you, I see another way that Southeast Kansas was knocking on my door even when I didn’t notice it yet. I guess that’s how I know my test strip is reading “right on track.”
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