I hope you will indulge me as I share a few personal thoughts, to include some spiritual applications which may be helpful to all of us. I spent a day at a brushfire yesterday, “burning memories.” As many of you know, I maintained a private law practice for 19 years, and essentially closed it when I went to the State’s Attorney’s Office in the Fall of 2001. During those 19 years, I accumulated boxes and boxes of closed files, which I have kept in our barn until yesterday.
I loaded between 80 and 100 banker’s boxes of closed files on our old pickup truck, and yesterday dumped or spread them out on the fire, one after the other. Of course, I couldn’t resist stopping and looking at some of them, which brought back many, many memories. Some of these files were from jury trials I had had long before becoming a prosecutor. One was for a client who had been wrongfully fired and bad-mouthed as an older, insurance representative. Another was for a young mother whose son had been targeted by an explosive attack by an irate neighbor. Both of those cases resulted in jury verdicts with compensatory as well as punitive damages. Many of these files were for real estate settlements, domestic disputes, civil cases, etc., etc. As I went through hundreds and hundreds of names, I found that many of them I still remembered, and it brought back memories of our associations and hours of work together.
I was also amazed at the work I saw in those files which had been done by others. My sister, Carol, who served with me as an outstanding legal assistant for many years. My wife Marvina, who provided medical consulting services and practical advice about domestic and other cases. My dad, who would help out at the office in many ways. My mother, who helped keep our books in the early days. Other secretaries and assistants, as well as my former law partner, all had contributed to the success of those 19 years, with much labor and work. It was sad to me to toss one file box after another onto the fire.
I also saw the work of judges, fellow attorneys, law-enforcement officers, and many, many witnesses. Long lists, letters, handwritten notes, court pleadings, depositions, and on and on. Much of this work is forgotten, but it changed lives in significant ways at the time.
Now you may be wondering why this was such a memorable experience, and why I am sharing it in the Bulletin, a publication intended for spiritual instruction and encouragement. I guess this was such a moving experience to me as I pondered, there in a secluded spot out on the farm, by myself, tending an all-day fire, something spiritual about the nature of life.
Life is short. The newest of these files was already 20 years old! I thought to myself, “Where have the years gone?” I remember as a young attorney, establishing my own practice, how the future seemed endless. There were so many people to meet, clients to serve, and a practice to build! Now I look at it all in hindsight, sincerely hoping I was able to help some good people with life’s problems, and wondering what has become of all of them.
James said in the long ago, “Ye are a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” As we get older, we more and more realize just how precious little that time actually is. 19 years of anyone’s life is a long time, but having the chance to review it with these detailed records, and be reminded of such amazing experiences, was almost overwhelming to me. I was also thankful to God for the chance to participate in such important matters, and also for so many others who made such a practice possible.
I think there is something healthy about pausing and reviewing our life once in a while. At least I hope there is, because I find myself doing that, especially on days like yesterday. I had a recurring urge to call some of those people and see how they are doing today. But that would have been the beginnings of an endless, and probably fruitless search. Life goes on! Our acquaintances and activities change, but still life moves forward for all of us. When you look back over your life, and survey where you have been, I hope you draw strength and encouragement from your memories. I hope you remember the people who have helped get you where you are. Remember the hard work which has been done. Memory is a blessing from God, so thanks for reading, and sharing in some of my memories today.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.