“Maybe a museum would work. You could call it The Neid Museum of Things That Really Weren’t That Important To Me.” Such was one of the flurry of responses among my family members over my removal of some plaques hanging on my office wall. I had been looking at those 12 plaques for a lot of years, but had really been thinking over time about the need for such things.
The plaques are a history of my life, in a way. There are plaques from being national president of an organization, serving in my local community, and a really big walnut and bronze one for receiving a national award for my writing on leadership and teaching. These mementoes conferred on me by a variety of organizations represent several decades of giving to and promoting things I care about, like adult continuing education, leadership development, and service to one’s community. These etched emblems are recognition of hard work, a massive amount of hours, and devotion to things that I believe matter in the world.
But over time, I have begun to ask myself, “What will matter in the long run and who will really want these kinds of tokens after I am gone?” (Although I am not planning on going anywhere soon) That is what sparked the initial email question. It went like this: “What should I do with the plaques on my office wall. I don’t think anyone wants them and I am tired of them…what should I do…hate to toss them…home in a box for someone else to toss when I am old and gray and cannot remember anymore?”
My family got the gist of my question as we shared electronically together. My daughter suggested taking pictures of them and keeping them in a scrap book (she is a really good photographer, by the way, so that seemed like a good solution). Then, there would be a record of the awards. My wife’s response of the “Neid Museum” I thought had merit, but who would pay an entrance fee for my life history. (For clarity, my wife has called me Neid since we started dating. It was most affectionately attached to my car at the time—the Neid Mobile, a ’67 blue Ford Galaxy, four door). My wife also suggested simply bringing them home for my office there “which has enough wall space.”
Yeah, bringing them home would also be an option, but why put them there on the walls in a private place? Didn’t the people who originally gave them want them to be in a public location to share not only recognition, but an ongoing marketing campaign of who they are? So, putting them on the wall at home somewhat defeats the purpose for receiving them in the first place.
My son had not replied to my email, but closed our overall discussion when he simply wrote, “Don’t toss them. Let us toss them after they serve their final purpose…helping us remember when we need the most. DB.” A fitting ending to our conversation. Remembering. That is what we have ultimately in the end. To be remembered by those who loved us and thought we were the best thing since sliced bread. It was what the Egyptian pharaohs hoped for…to be remembered. For their names to be spoken generation after generation for all eternity. To be remembered by our loved ones generation to generation; for the stories to grow legend and the glory of who we were to last for eternity is the greatest keepsake we own.
The dozen plaques are off the wall and it looks refreshing to me. What is interesting is that some people I have worked with over a decade have not even noticed they are missing. Such is the reality of it. The plaques are in a box waiting their transport and storage at home in the garage next to vintage high school athletics trophies and other awards from yesteryear. I hope someday they will fulfill their final purpose by providing hours of conversation on a life lived well and an opportunity to remember.
Blessings, grace and peace.