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A modest life remembered
Yesterday, while browsing Facebook, I stumbled upon a news story from back in March that I can’t stop thinking about.
The article, “Shelagh was here — an ordinary, magical life,” was published in the Toronto Star newspaper, and focused on the funeral of Shelagh Gordon, a 55-year old woman who passed away suddenly in February. To cover the funeral, the paper sent out 14 reporters, who spent weeks contacting more than 100 people for follow-up interviews.
So who was Shelagh Gordon? Why did her death warrant so much news coverage?
The answer is surprising. By many standards, Gordon had an unremarkable life. She lived alone, was never married and had no children. She worked a job she wasn’t crazy about and didn’t pay much attention to makeup or fashion. Her funeral was simply chosen at random for the news story, which was meant to explore the impact an individual life can have.
“I met Shelagh Gordon at her funeral,” writes columnist Catherine Porter, in the article’s opening sentence.
By the end of the article, I felt like I now knew Gordon as well, including what made her special — her deep generosity and the love she shared with all of her family members and friends.
As Porter writes: “If she noticed your boots had holes, she’d press her new ones into your arms. When you casually admired her coffeemaker, you’d wake up to one of your own. A bag of chocolates hanging from your doorknob would greet you each Valentine’s Day, along with some clippings from the newspaper she thought you’d find interesting.
“Shelagh made people around her feel not just loved but coveted. That was the golden thread that stitched together the ordinary seams of her life.”
By talking to so many of Gordon’s friends and families, the Star reporters were able to piece together a complete and moving portrait of a life that can serve as a lesson for how to build and maintain relationships. Though she had no husband or children of her own, Gordon was a deeply devoted sister, friend and aunt who left behind a rich legacy of warmth and love.
“She didn’t change the world forcibly, but she changed many people in it,” Porter writes. “She lightened them. She inspired them, though she likely didn’t realize it. She touched them in simple ways most of us don’t because we are too caught-up and lazy.”
As the article states, Gordon’s life was ordinary, but deeply meaningful. If you want to be inspired today, I definitely suggest checking it out. While you’re there, be sure to take a look at the main photo from the funeral, which links to more than 100 personal reflections on Gordon’s life.