Rest in Peace

What does rest in peace really mean?   Rest in peace goes back to Latin origins of  a three word prayer when someone had died and was buried. In Latin it was Requiescat in pace” which meant “may he/she rest in peace”.   Down through the ages into our modern English, the term “RIP” has remained consistent with that translation.

Steve McNair was a NFL quarterback who spent most of his career with the Tennessee Titans, the football team of my adopted hometown of  Nashville, TN.    He tragically died on July 4, 2009 from multiple gunshot wounds.  Details remain fuzzy, but it is safe to say that the Steve McNair we thought we knew had character flaws just like the rest of us.

I am not here to judge, but would like to bring to light the fact that “Rest In Peace” can mean many things to different people.  It should mean that we need to celebrate the good deeds and positive attributes of the person who has died.  We give them the honor in death that we hope they received in life, although all too often, this is not the case.  At this time we make a special effort to focus on the footprint the deceased person left in the lives of people he met.  It does not mean we forget the negative aspects or personal flaws about the deceased, but for that short amount of time we refrain from voicing our opinions about it.  Steve McNair, 36, was found to be involved with Sahel Kazemi, 20, whom he had met six months earlier when she was a waitress at a local Nashville establishment.  McNair was married and had 2 children who he leaves behind.  Ms. Kazemi was found shot to death as well with McNair.  The whole story is not known at this time but it appears that this part of McNair’s life was kept hidden from his family.

McNair’s death has recieved the local and national media attention that one would expect following the death of a celebrity and sports star who dies at a young age.  Admirably, the facts have been placed out there without judgments made or assumptions jumped to.  People have been quick to tell all the things he did in the community, on the football field, as a friend, business owner, and as an ambassador of sorts for Nashville.    The fact remains that he did have an extra-marital affair and I am sure that his wife feels betrayed by him even in death.  Unfortunately, people are often unfaithful.  They have been, and will continue to be for all time.  This is not something that people want to hear at a funeral, and don’t usually bring up in discussing the dead person’s life during this difficult time.

Our media and in some ways our society feels the need to air all the dirty laundry ever known about a person. Micheal Jackson recently died as well and he, as a pop-music icon known around the world, has been under scrutiny even in death.  People don’t earn a free pass for us not to  acknowledge any misdeeds, but bringing it up all of the time is in bad taste.   I look at the term “Rest In Peace” in a way which means that we allow the family and loved ones of the deceased a chance to celebrate that person’s life, and grieve their loss.  We let them rest, knowing that their loved one, famous or not, is acknowledged for living a good life.  The mistakes are not highlighted, and the flaws remain, but they are only the small part of the total picture.  In my faith, the deceased person remains aware, even in death, that they had people who loved them and who gathered to celebrate a life lived.  The deceased enjoys knowing that their journey of life here is over and the after-life begins with peace.  The family and friends are given permission and encouragement to be at peace with the person who has died.

It may not bother you that places like and Perez Hilton make money and gain fame off the deaths of what are ultimately just another human being who was loved by others.  I think it in poor taste that we as consumers of this information seek to know more of the seedy facts about the dead person than finding out how the person helped others.  Here is an example of what Steve McNair did in terms of helping others:

The Steve McNair Foundation

Founded in 2001, The Steve McNair Foundation, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 organization, is devoted to serving underprivileged children through programs and grants focusing on inspiring and empowering today’s youth to utilize the educational, civic, and athletic opportunities available to them. Our foundation also provides scholarships for boys participating in the Steve McNair Annual Football Camps in Tennessee and Mississippi. Over the past ten years, more than 5,000 campers have had the opportunity to attend football camps funded by the Steve McNair Foundation. The foundation always looks to provide financial support to non-profit agencies that promote self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth among children.

As I read this, I wondered how many times this has been acknowledged in the media.  Steve McNair made some choices in his personal life, of which we should not judge.   Let’s weigh it all and come up with an accurate picture of this man.  “Rest In Peace” is what we need to remember and I pray that Steve McNair, his family, and friends can find peace at this most difficult time.  I have tried to show proper respect here, and hope that you will too when you next hear of the death of a famous person.

R.I.P. Steve McNair.

Steve McNair

Steve McNair


2 responses to “Rest in Peace

  1. I’ve been thinking about Nashville a lot these past few days, and wondering how the city is reacting. The Steve McNair that we knew and loved during those seasons we cheered on the Titans seems at odds with the Steve McNair we are hearing about.

    I remember something that Elizabeth Edwards said in her interview with Oprah, when Oprah questioned why she hadn’t left John Edwards after he admitted to his affair. She said that they had shared many wonderful years of marriage together, and that he had always been a wonderful husband, father, and community servant. She didn’t think it was right to dismiss all those years of commitment and only choose to accept the poor choice he made as his defining characteristic. I think the same holds true here. I ache for his wife and children, though, who have to deal with their grief and their anger and humiliation at the same time.

  2. yet again your perceptive writing hits home…although a “frustrated journalist” at heart, I find the race to sell papers by whatever headline grabbing means possible despicable.

    In the UK the tabloids are most to blame, focussing on the seedier elements of people’s lives…sadly, all the time we lap up this news, the papers will carry on this habit of building people up only to knock them down again as soon as the opportunity arises.

    Well done for an excellently written piece

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