What we leave behind

I was in my car running errands when the DJ said, “I have a special reason for playing this next song. I’ll tell you after it’s over.”  I heard the first distinctive notes of “The Entertainer” from The Sting and knew that Marvin Hamlisch had died.

I felt inexpressibly sad.  He had brought so much joy into my life over so many years, it was almost as if we were friends.  Of course, Marvin didn’t know me from Adam but he had made it possible for me to know him, not only through his wonderful music but because he appeared so often on TV.

He showed up as himself on talk shows, documentaries, tributes to his work or to other people and even on sitcoms.  He was charming and funny and made you want to spend the evening with him. 

Above it all was the amazing music.  Look at a list of the things he wrote from “Sunshine, Lollipops” for Leslie Gore and “The Way We Were” for Streisand to all those sad, funny, soaring songs in A Chorus Line.  Can you hear “One” without seeing those gorgeous girls in the top hats, without wanting to get up yourself and kick up your heels?

Even after all the people who remember him are gone, his music will still be there,  like Sinatra’s voice or Cary Grant’s movies, like Marilyn’s giggle and sultry walk, like the words of Shakespeare or Steinbeck.

That isn’t going to happen for most of us, so it seems that our only real legacy is the memories we create for other people – not the perfect birthday cake or the expensive present – but the surprises, the kindnesses, the smiles and hugs and even the ready shoulder to lean on or the ear willing to listen.  It won’t matter if we get credit or even if the other person knows our name.  Each caring act bends the universe just a little in the right direction.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.