Those who have gone on before us..

By Scott Westerman

I talked with Dad last night. His one remaining sister passed away this week. Aunt Ellen had a long run. She would have been 90 in October. Her life had more than it’s share of challenges. But you wouldn’t have known it to talk with her. I loved every minute we spent together. Positive energy literally radiated out from Aunt Ellen’s being to everyone around her. Her last letter to Dad was filled with hope, excitement and gratitude. Very little of the letter was about her. She loved shining the light on those she loved.

That seems to be a common theme as I look back over the Westerman lineage. Aunt Joanne died relatively young. But even her abbreviated existence was full of expectations and outcomes that she always perceived as steps in the right direction. Obstacles were puzzles to be solved, story problems that could make us smarter and stronger.

I’ve written at length about The Real Scott Westerman. Dad’s life has been dedicated to the idea that education leads to enlightenment and opportunity. Those who drink from the cup of knowledge are much more likely to seek solutions that benefit the common good. He believes that an excellent public education for all is the best way to solve the perennial problems we face. The data proves it.. He’s a numbers guy and can show you. We can all learn. And it’s our duty to help others learn, too.

All three of the Westerman kids shared the belief that it was up to us to be forces for positive change. Life is not a spectator sport in our family. This used to bug me on the days when I would just as soon let someone else carry the ball. But I grew to realize that the safest place was often being a quarterback who wasn’t afraid to take that game outside of the pocket, away from the comfort zone and always in the direction of my dreams. You got knocked down more often. But I came to understand that resistance training was the key to strength. And strength always prevails in the long run.

Their Methodist upbringing preached personal responsibility. Even in the gray areas, right and wrong were always black and white. Your heart always knew what to do. It was your obligation to do it.

But do it with an open mind. Prejudice was a bad word in our house. We were taught tolerance for lifestyle choices. We were encouraged to question conventional wisdom and make our own decisions. We learned to respect others, but to expect the same thing in return. “Surround yourself with people who lift you up and avoid those who would drag you down. But invest a portion of your time to help feed the poor, heal the sick and educate the ignorant.”

If you want change, be the change.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from these extraordinary people is to accept our own imperfections. We all have crises of confidence. We will all stumble. Not everyone will like us. We can often learn more from failure so were were taught to see setbacks as the learning opportunities they are.

The foundation for all of this was love; an appreciation for the infinite diversity and beauty of the world around us, a compassion for people who were struggling, and the joy of engaging to help others learn and share love’s power.

The culmination of a life well lived is an opportunity to think about these things. To be grateful for those who have gone before us. To celebrate their gifts and more deeply integrate the best things about who they were into our daily behaviors so that we can become the best that we can be.

Aunt Ellen, Aunt Joanne and The Real Scott Westerman continue to encourage us to teach all of these things to the next generation, so that when they look at our lives, they too will want to grow up to pass it on.

In Memory of
Ellen Brashares
October 6, 1922 – September 5, 2012