Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
“Thank you Coach Kuehl for introducing me and my senior speech.
“Towards the end of January, I attended a funeral for a cousin of mine who had passed away a couple weeks ago. His name was Ralph Remmert, and he was 36 years old. My siblings and I always referred to him as uncle Ralph. Because to us, he was more of an uncle than a cousin. He had fought a long battle against cystic fibrosis. This is an inherited life-threatening disorder that damaged his lungs and digestive system. He was diagnosed with CF during his last year of high school. The morning my mother told me he was gone, all I could do was remember the times he visited us, the little moments we had, the conversations we shared, and the way his laugh brightened our moods.
“While I was remembering, I felt a sense of regret. Regret, because I wish I had spent more time with him and gotten to know him more. He was someone I really enjoyed being around, and he always tried to be the best person he could be.
“A couple weeks later, we arrived at the church for his funeral. My family gathered, and I saw us come together and support each other. I heard people share stories and memories of Ralph that I had never heard before. I learned that he was even greater than I had thought.
“When he was first diagnosed with CF, he didn’t know how long he had to live. But from that moment on, he decided to live the best life he could. That’s how he believed life should be lived. He wanted to live in such a way that, when the end finally came and he looked back, he could be happy with the experiences he’d had and the relationships he’d made. He finished his senior year at South Omaha High School. He went on to college and graduated from Bellevue University, and got his master’s degree in international negotiation and dispute resolution from Creighton University. He traveled the world as much as he possibly could.
“I think the way he lived his life sets a good example for the rest of us. I’m not saying you have to get a master’s degree or travel all over. These things aren’t necessarily the key to a happy and fulfilled life. But rather the way he lived in general. He lived for himself with respect for others around him. He valued family and the time that he had. These things that I learned about him that weekend, taught me that we shouldn’t be afraid to live our own life. A life that makes us happy. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Because we don’t know if we will ever get the same chances again.
“Ralph got along with almost everyone he met, no matter what condition he was in. I learned that the need to treat others with fairness and compassion goes beyond family. And we should care for others and not just for ourselves, because there are millions of people who have it worse. It was because of him that I realized that it is necessary to embrace and enjoy the time you have with those closest to you, because time is valuable. You can save it, spend it, or waste it, but you can never get it back, no matter how much you want it. So it’s important to make sure what you say and what you do are some things you really mean.
“Because life is a journey, whether you know your path or not. And the way you look back at what you have done and how you’ve treated others will determine how you see yourself just before you go. Ralph understood this, and he helped me to understand it, too. Thank you.”