How will you be remembered?
Every day on almost every part of the planet, friends and family gather to say their final ‘goodbyes’ to a loved one who has passed away. Whether a formal eulogy is presented by clergy, family, or a friend, most funeral services include a eulogy as part of the rite. Simply put, a eulogy may contain a condensed history of the decedent’s life. Details about family, friends, interests, achievements and their work are standard fare in most eulogies. Sometimes
songs or poems are performed or read aloud, or something from their religious faith is coupled with the person’s innate goodness during their time on earth and are expressed with great emotion at a funeral service.
What is almost never heard is what a beautiful car he drove, or what an incredible mansion she lived in, or “Dan was a mean, nasty guy but boy did he have nice toys!”
I remember when I was a kid going to Catholic school. One of my nun-teachers, a Sister Everista, told the class to go home and do something real creepy before we were to go to sleep that night. She said we should lay real still, hold a rosary in our hands, close our eyes, and pretend that we were laying in a casket. Our family and friends would gather around us and we were to listen to what they had to say about us. Wow! Creepy for an 11 or 12-year-old kid, but it stuck with me. Did you ever wonder what people would say about you once you are gone? I believe that the good Sister’s point was for us to do a personal check up from the neck up each night to see where we can improve ourselves with the thought to correct our failures and make our apologies as soon as we were able.
Another thing that one of the Sister’s of St. Francis told the class, and me, was to always say I love you to those you care about whenever you part because we never know if those would be our last words to that person. Her point was that most of life’s day-to-day minutia mean so little when the last breath has been taken. There are so many ways to say I love you. Be creative, but be consistently aware that the loves that we are privileged to share are the greatest gifts we may both give and receive.
Perhaps taking stock of where you are in your life, right at this very moment, might be a good thing to do. Who are you being nice to? Mean to? Who have you helped lately? Who have you rejected or demeaned or shown rudeness to because things weren’t going just how you wanted in your own life? Sometimes the hurts we cause seem to be small, but what if the hurt you caused was the last interaction you had with that person?
What does this have to do with our eulogy? Each of these seemingly little things add up and make us the person that we are. Oh, I realize that we all have a certain way that we see ourselves, and “good reasons” for what we say and do…good reasons at least in our own minds. Think back to the last time you saw “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, or “A Christmas Carole” when the script took us back to the time of Christmas of the future. When Scrooge stood as a ghost and heard the things that were being said about him, and his defensive posture in the scene until the evidence became overwhelming that maybe, just maybe, his view of himself was amazingly different than how others saw him in life. A wise person once told me that it doesn’t matter if something is true or not. It is one’s perception that becomes their truth. So, how are you being perceived?
The good news is we are human and we are alive. If there are things that we do or say that we regret, as long as we have a breath in us we can strive to become better people. It is easy to say, and a cop-out, that we are products of our genetic make-up. To that I reply, some parts of us may be a result of chromosomal connections…but mostly we are who we are, and we do what we do, and we say what we say because of the choices we make to be, to do and to say.
We also have the choice to correct the hurts we have caused, and to make up for the bad judgements we make. All that is necessary is to ask our selves the simple question that was posed by my grade school nun so many years ago, “If I died today, would I be happy with what people are saying about me?” More importantly, would I be happy with what they had to say after they left the funeral home and when their true thoughts were being thought about the type of person I was to them?
So, we actually do write our own eulogies by the way we live each day. As for my eulogy, I would hope to hear things like:
“He was a great husband and friend to his wife. He was as good a father as a mere human could be. He loved to laugh, and he was not afraid to cry. He was always there for anybody who needed him, whether he liked the person or not, or whether they liked him or not. He was a fair “boss” who did his best to profit his employers while understanding the complexities of this new world in which we live. He understood that without others, he was nothing. He was gentle when he needed to be and tough when he had to be, with both his chilren and for those who worked with him. He was protective of his privacy, and he was protective of his wife and kids in all things great or small. He was honest and of the highest integrity. He had passion and compassion, in work and in play. He was competitive and wanted us all to be all that we can be. He was a good provider, of both money and possessions, and he had a great work ethic. But mostly he served as a role model of what a husband, a father, a brother, a son and an employee/boss should be. He not only professed to love God, but he lived his life as a follower of the premise of the Golden Rule…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yes, he was a goof at times, and yes he made mistakes. He was quick to anger, but he almost always realized (usually within minutes) that there was a better response, and his solutions were almost always steeped in fairness. He was not perfect but he was perfect in his constant pursuit of being the best person he could be. Oh, and he loved going to movies!”
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