My Father In law – Jacques Ravailhe, 83, passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly last week. He was in great health (or so everyone thought), had no serious illnesses all his life (except for persistent migraines), and was the right weight for his height.
He neither smoked nor drank (except for the odd Ricard or small glass of wine when guests arrived for an aperitif, but just the one and only occasionally). He walked daily and ski’d and ate the healthiest of diets.
Apart from the shock this obviously caused in the family and the community – of which Jacques was a very active member – it also seemed a bit unfair. I mean, I know everyone has to die (currently!), but how is it that other, older, far less healthy, drinking and smoking relatives are still here and Jacques is not? I guess if we knew the answers to those things we would be either the richest man on earth or God.
Having taken the last week off work to go to France and be with my French family and of course, my other half, there has been much time for reflection.
One of the heart-warmingly positive things that has come out of Jacques departure, has been the huge (and I don’t use that word lightly) legacy that he has left.
Of course, for his family and close friends, he has left a rather large Jacques shaped hole that no-one else can fill. But if you had been at the church with me on Monday (something Jacques would have found amusing as he was not a church goer), you would have seen HUNDREDS of people there.
He would have loved the lay priest wearing trainers; the fumbling over the music CD, his other daughter in law nearly laughing at the ‘silliness’ of part of the ceremony that Jacques would also have laughed at, and his sister in law nearly missing her cue to speak. He was ever the joker, always finding the humour in every situation.
Now I have been to a few funerals of people in their 70’s, 80’s even in the case of my great aunt – 100’s, and you may have noticed, like me, that there are normally not that many people there. In the case of my great aunt, not only had she outlived all the friends of her own generation, she outlived most of those from the generation after and even the one after that. So there just weren’t that many people left who still knew her.
That cannot be said about Jacques.
He knew a lot of people for sure, but many many more directly knew him or knew of him. Not only because he had been a bank manager in the area for many years before retiring in his 50’s, but more because of his active leadership in the community. He wasn’t just someone who would take part, he was someone who made things happen, and enabled others to take part.
When the village hall next door was falling into disuse, he sorted it out, and created a gym for older (and younger) people and many community activities. Only a few weeks ago, when we were there visiting, he was signing up the latest gym instructor on a 1-year contract.
He organised many things, in his quiet, competent, humble way.
And the biggest of these is probably the annual Triathlon – the Artisienne. This is a full day in June each year, for the whole community of Arthes, and surrounding areas, where people cycle up the Tarn (the local river), stop for refreshments (including wine or Pastis of course – this IS France), then row back down the river (more refreshments) and then walk or run back to the village hall, where, in the evening a huge dinner of paella and more wine, is consumed by triathletes and supporters combined.
This event has been running for years and was Jacques’ baby. It involves the whole community for weeks before and on the day itself and the clean up day after. Jacques right-hand man for this event is too upset at the moment to contemplate running it again. We hope we can talk him round.
Because surely, the best way to honour Jacques is to keep the Artisienne running as the community tradition that it has become. He dedicated his life to serving his community, in all the ways he could. He sought neither thanks nor recognition. But on Monday, the people of Arthes, and many others, came together to give both – thanks for his life, and recognition for his service to his community.
And so, my question for you, and for myself, is – what is YOUR legacy? What can you do, through your business or personally, to impact your community in a way that will be remembered long after you have shuffled off this mortal coil? Will yours be a life well spent?