Monday, September 10, 2007

Remembering a Life, Not a Death

People from out-of-town are this week talking about Beth Cann, the Norton woman who died a tragic death.

But here, friends and neighbors talk about Beth Cann, the woman who lived a life so big, so full of love for family, friends and others that it took two towns and two churches to celebrate all she was and all she did.

This past Saturday a Canton Roman Catholic church opened its doors and its hearts to a Norton Protestant Congregational church to hold a memorial service for a woman who throughout her life stood for the values each church, in its own way, celebrates and honors every day.

It was her death that brought Beth to the attention of people across the state and country over the last two weeks. But it was how she lived, not how she died, that brought people to pack that Canton church and honor the memory of this extraordinary lady.

Most of us have no control over how we die, or the circumstances surrounding our inevitable demise. Death is a moment in time, and to know or judge a person based on that fleeting snapshot is unfair and often inaccurate. After all, dying often takes no effort. But living – and living well – is an achievement worth noting and celebrating.
Beth Cann lived a life worth celebrating.

Beth was no celebrity in life. She didn’t hold political office, invent medical vaccines, or rescue children from burning buildings. She never won a Nobel Prize, wrote a best-selling book, or won an Olympic gold medal.

But the things she did do, she did incredibly well.

She raised three beautiful daughters with all the love, patience and understanding any parent could possibly give. She taught them what is important in life, and to treasure the love of family.

She exemplified the word “friend”, giving of herself to so many it is a wonder there was enough of her to go around. She was quick with a smile, infectious in her good humor, and sensitive to the plight of others.

She also understood service, and was a living example. She loved her church, and understood she could only get out of it what she put into it. She devoted countless hours to making it a better place. As a Youth Group leader, she passed on her own special brand of caring and wisdom to the generation that would follow her.

Beth’s memorial service was packed with friends and people who loved and respected her. Fellow church members organized and planned the event with the love and effort only true friendship can inspire. What they did is more of a testament to Beth than could possibly be offered here.

She leaves three daughters, all facing a long journey to recover from the events surrounding their mother’s death. As they grow older, they will come to appreciate the foundation their mother laid for them, which will give them the strength and faith to grow up and live on.

When the photographers and news crews disappear, and the sad story of last week’s events fades from the pages of the newspapers, the emphasis on her death will be over. The out-of-towners will go home, and the plight of others who suffer terrible tragedies will dominate the news.

But here – and wherever her friends and family may gather – Beth Cann will always be remembered not for the terrible way in which she died but for the wonderful manner in which she lived.

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