by Lora Songster
Have you ever tried to help someone connect a name and face by describing that person? Over the years, I’ve wondered how I would be described. Tall, blond, silly, serious, squinty-eyed, funny, that girl on the radio?
Although I’m still intrigued by this, earlier this year a greater, more powerful question began weighing on my heart. How will I be described when I’m gone? What is my legacy? It’s a question worth asking every day.
In May, my family attended the 20th anniversary of the McNair Foundation. My father was the first director of the foundation and was honored posthumously as part of the celebration. After the festivities came to a close, a gentleman came to my family and said, “No one ever had anything but nice things to say about Jim Songster.” These simple words held great power and gravity that night — and at this moment.
My previous concern with a physical description of me seems so superficial now. How could I possibly live my life so that I could be thought of as my father was, and is?
My dad had a brain injury in 1996, which took away his voice — both literally and figuratively. Through his lengthy hospital stay, people we knew and some we didn’t told stories about him and the difference he made in their lives. They regaled us with stories of him as a coach, brother, employer and educator. His love for his wife and children, his education, his faith, and his abnormally loud and infectious laugh topped the list.
The stories I loved best were the ones that he never would have told. The silent, clandestine works of a Good Samaritan were revealed in the visits, letters and tearful stories.
Before you think I have my father up for sainthood, let me say this: He was not perfect. It might best be reflected in a conversation a counselor was having with my ex-husband and me. She told me that my problem was that I put my dad on a pedestal, and that no man could ever measure up. My ex-husband quickly shot her down, explaining that my father was one of those magical men who do great things and who should be on a pedestal. Anyone who’s gone through marriage counseling knows what a seminal moment this was.
But the question remains. What will they say when I’m gone? In truth, I have made a lot of mistakes. I have hurt and disappointed people whom I love and respect. I have said and done things that I wish I could erase.
My faith believes in forgiveness and God’s infinite ability to erase that which I can’t. There’s a quote from an unknown author that I gravitate toward: “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it; autograph your work with excellence.” Shouldn’t our self-portraits, then, be ones of kindness, love, charity and grace?
Although I’m married and use my husband’s last name, I remain Lora Songster professionally. Not only is the name a good fit for a radio host, but it’s also a daily reminder of who I am and whose legacy I represent.
How will I be described? My fervent hope is that it’s in a manner that will evoke swelling pride in my children.
Lora Songster can be heard from 5:30-9 a.m. each morning on WMAG. To learn more, visit www.995wmag.com.