It Is All About Family
And Who Makes Up Our Family

On my earlier essay, I wrote about the meaning of being and the critical importance of creating our reason for being. It is apparent that unless we do, we are wasting precious time on this pale blue dot. A part of my essay had a video of Carl Sagan, one of my mentors. Sagan has enriched my scientific background more than taking science classes in school. Forty years ago, his Cosmos series on TV helped tens of millions of others throughout the world.

The day, May 18, that I posted that video and essay, happened to be the twelfth anniversary of one of my dances with death. On that day, I fell off a ladder and cracked my head on a retaining wall. What resulted was a subdural hematoma, which is a medical way of saying that my brain was bleeding. As the fates would have it, this week is being dedicated to more than being alive. I was attempting, on my twelfth anniversary of being alive, to put all the pieces together in my journey down my yellow brick road of my life. The past influenced the present.

I had watched all the COSMOS programs four decades ago and have reviewed them over the years. However, as chance would have it, I hadn’t viewed this particular video that I included in the essay. The video was identical to other videos that I have watched where Sagan is discussing our place in the universe…the pale blue dot. The difference between all the other videos was in the end of this video. It wasn’t even a part of Sagan’s video.

After the pale blue dot video ended, the screen went to black, and this quote by Thomas Campbell appeared, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die….” That quote was reaffirmed with three added words, Carl lives on.

Millions throughout the world would simply smile and say, “Amen” to that postscript. Sagan does live on. That addendum of Campbell’s quote is true…absolutely true. Interestingly, that quote was a couplet from his poem, Hallowed Ground.

Thomas Campbell

Campbell and Sir Walter Scott were friends in Scotland. Scott thought so much of Campbell that he wanted him to teach at the University of Edinburgh. Interestingly, a century and a half later, I attended classes at Edinburgh.

Nevertheless, Campbell’s couplet, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die,” resonates with me due to my dances with death. It sensitizes me to living life in the moment. However, living is more than merely being alive. I am fully cognizant that I won’t be able to lead death on the dance floor of life forever. I realize that my time on this pale blue dot is limited…very limited. I have been given nearly eight decades to journey down my yellow brick road. If I want to leave this world a better place than I found it, I need to get engaged.

I love teaching. I enjoy writing. I love my American family. However, I have been to Myanmar three times in the past half dozen years. My last visit was during winter break several months ago. Had I not gone when I did and waited a couple months later, the coronavirus would have postponed that visit with my family for at least a year or more.

When I read Campbell couplet, it resonated with me. “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die….” I know my clock is ticking. I wouldn’t have wanted to have missed that golden opportunity. I enjoyed laughing and talking with my granddaughters. We toured parts of their homeland as a family. The things that we did and places we saw are etched into the minds of them and their parents.

It is difficult to convey to my readers the impact it had upon me. I have traveled overseas during most of my life. I am fortunate enough to have explored much of the world for which I am grateful. However, I can’t make you feel the way I do. You weren’t there. To be honest, this essay is written for my granddaughters and their parents. Hopefully, in a couple of years, we will have more time together and visit other places in Myanmar.

Nevertheless, there will be a time for them in which I won’t be around. “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die….” I will have immortality in their hearts. Interestingly, on New Year’s Eve, we had dinner together at the Nyaung Shwe Restaurant, which is my favorite restaurant in Myanmar. My granddaughters sang the words of another poem of a Scottish poet, Bobby Burns.

One final thought. I want my three granddaughters to remember me in their hearts. I want them to remember all the fun times we had together. I want to remember the exciting times as well as the quiet times. While we all enjoyed those time, the most important thing that I want them to remember is that their PaPa Al saw value in them. Each of them has special traits and things that interested them. They possess both charm and intellect. As they continue down their yellow brick roads, I want to remember that I believed in them and who they are. They will be successful in life and make the world a better place.