One of New Zealand’s national heroes died right after I moved here. Sir Edmund Hillary. The first man to summit Everest. A man of legends, and he lived in the neighborhood where I have moved. He was rumored to be humble and willing to meet anyone.
The church where he was lying in state was on my walk home. So I went in. Ave Maria played overhead as New Zealanders shuffled past their beloved, stopping in the center of the stage to nod at the casket draped in a New Zealand flag, yellow scarf and flowers. At the foot of the casket lay his medals. To the right was a portrait of him right after his Everest climb and a small gold bowl with flowers and candles, a mark of his connections to Nepal and India.
I didn’t know this man. Still, I could feel the hot lump in my throat and the tears behind my lids as I walked along the ropes.
I passed a pair of old men who looked like Sir Edmund. I smiled. I figured it was a good time to sit in the pink-covered chairs and reflect. Surprised that I was so emotional. I closed my eyes and thought about life.
I hope we can all can aspire to greatness without arrogance.