Self Portrait

I’ve never paid much attention to obituaries, or as the San Leandro Times refers to them “Local Deaths,” but this one captured my curiosity:

Manual “Pop” Sotelo – October 1, 1924 to August 8, 2017. His commemoration begins, “What is a life? Our father would say that it’s the way you lived, and treated others.” In my opinion, that pretty much sums it up for Pop. But the author goes on to list that Pop was a decorated soldier, native of Oakland, and was dedicated to the home team A’s. He and his wife Sandy produced nine children who in turn produced even more children. Pop’s and Sandy’s legacy is the clan they created.

Obituaries attempt the impossible. Summing up one’s life at any stage is equally impossible. Very few of us can write a memoir. Even fewer think that it’s necessary. Most of us are content floating in the current moment, like fish facing upstream to feed on one tidbit of experience after another. Writing one’s own obituary in itself is impossible, assuming that you’ve waited for the last moment in order to capture the entire final scene.

Pop died at ninety-three. Needless to say, a lot can happen in ninety-three years. We’re left not knowing how the war affected Pop. We can guess that he was dedicated to fighting for the freedom of future generations. I would bet that his valor ennobled his aspirations. I would also suspect that for Pop, church and state went hand-in-hand with family. Being loyal probably came naturally.

Surviving battle can define a life. The love of country or family can provide definition as well. Is there something that defines you? Can you look at yourself and think, “If it wasn’t for (fill in the blank) I’d be different today.” For good or bad, we all have at least one episode that caused a shift in our sensibilities or beliefs. Take the time to name one for yourself. Consider how your life changed. Paint your self-portrait whether it’s real or imaginary. Let others know the inner you before reaching the final milestone.

I’m telling you my story. Go ahead and tell yours.

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