Have you ever gone out of the house wearing something completely inappropriate praying you don’t see someone you know? I never do that…except for maybe this one time. I was practically wearing pajamas but had to run a quick errand to pick something up from Costco. I dashed into the store, made a beeline for the honey aisle and then headed to the cash register when, of course, as luck would have it, I saw someone I knew.
It was just the husband of an old work colleague and the father of two adorably cute boys who played the part of the ring bearers in the bridal fashion shows I produced, so I thought there was a chance he wouldn’t recognize me, and I’d be spared the embarrassment of meeting someone in the middle of the day looking quite literally like I just rolled out of bed.
But no, Ken flashed his pearly whites in my direction, yelled out “Hey Meghann!” and came in for a big hug. Thirty minutes later, after we’d covered all of the latest news on the kids, what his wife was up to, how is family in Kenya was doing, how hard it is to be a parent and how wonderful life is, I was finally back on my way to the checkout. This chance conversation in my pajamas with a man I barely knew will stay with me forever.
While I’m generally outgoing, I’m not good with surprises. I’m often the person who sees someone I know and darts in the other direction as fast as humanly possible, even when properly dressed. Ken Mwangi was the polar opposite of that. His warm smile and friendly face enchanted just about everyone he met and I am sure that nobody ever left a conversation with him without feeling like family.
I am convinced that the greatest legacy we can leave our children are happy memories: those precious moments so much like pebbles on the beach that are plucked from the white sand and placed in tiny boxes that lay undisturbed on tall shelves until one day they spill out and time repeats itself, with joy and sweet sadness, in the child now an adult.
~ Og Mandino
Ken unexpectedly passed away this week, leaving his sweet wife Maria and two young boys behind. After tonight, I can count the number of funerals I’ve been to with the five fingers of one of my hands. Two of those funerals happened to be this month, but they couldn’t have been more different.
One funeral celebrated the life of a woman who lived a full and happy life, nurturing two children into adulthood and seeing the fruits of her labor flourish in her many great-grandchildren.
Tonight’s funeral celebrated a life taken too soon. There is something so unfathomably wrong with hearing a young child speak at his father’s funeral. When I think of these boys having to grow up without their father, I can’t help but cry. I know life isn’t fair, but this is cruel.
After the funeral, there was a beautiful celebration with music, games and great food. I stopped by the water cooler for a refill and ran into one of the boys. Andre flashed a smile my way, probably having no idea who I was, and struck up a conversation in an all too familiar way.
Ken’s legacy will without question live on in his children. It’s inevitable. Maybe it’s in their genes or maybe it’s from years of standing on the sidelines watching their dad, but I am certain that his boys will pick up right where he left off.
With no promise of tomorrow and no guarantees in life, I have to question my own life and my legacy. What will I leave behind? Sure, I have grand dreams of what I can accomplish in the next 50 years, but what if all I have is today?
If all I have is today, I want to say hi to friends, acquaintances and even strangers in the grocery store. I want to inspire my children to be good people. I want my inner circle to remember that I cared and had a loving heart. I want to leave behind enough happy memories to carry my loved ones through a lifetime.
If all I have left in this world is today, I am going to smile and enjoy it, just like Ken would.