What Will They Say About You at Your Funeral?
[Editor's Note: To celebrate the end of NaBloPoMo, we've chosen to feature this great post by Vicki Anne Melo that explores the notion of making your life fit what you'd want to have said at your funeral. --Mel]
Today I was going to post an article I've been working on for a while called "Why Introverts are So Cool & 10 Myths about Them." (I know it's a horrible title, but that's essentially what it's about.) Anyway, I couldn't finish it because my mind is somewhere else entirely, and so I've decided to write about where I'm at today instead. This is going to be a very different post than anything I've published thus far, and I'm probably going to get more personal than I'm comfortable with, so bear with me.
Yesterday I drove back to my hometown with my little sister to attend my Aunt Margaret's funeral. As I sat there in the church filled with people who loved my Aunt listening to them talk lovingly about her, I began thinking about how we all know that "our time" will come one day too. I couldn't help but wonder what people might say at my own funeral.
I know that I'm generally a good person. I try to be "good" according to my own values and beliefs, as I'm sure most people do. But I began to wonder if it was enough? If I have been making enough of an effort to be the person I want to be? I began thinking about what good I have actually done in my life and whom I've touched. I wondered if I could fill a room like my Aunt. What worth will I leave behind? I questioned if I have been using my time wisely or if I could do more. More for the people I love? More for the world?
I was sitting there analyzing my entire life, and I began to feel quite selfish and sad at the same time. Selfish because I was having this deep internal conversation with myself, about myself, at my aunt's funeral. And sad because, if I was completely honest, I knew I didn't like the answers I had to those questions.
I get caught up in my day-to-day, in meaningless frustrations and in my own goals and desires. I often forget about what is really important or I hold grudges or I focus so much on my own happiness, forgetting that more joy is gained from giving than receiving. I knew that if I died right then, I wouldn't die as the person I really wanted to be. That was a such disappointing thought, but I'm so glad that I had it because it has had me think seriously about who I am since then, and I really want to make some changes.
I remember asking myself these same questions once before. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey asks us to imagine that we're at our own funeral and to think not about what people would say if we died today, but what we would like people to say about us. While no one really wants to think about their own death, I think that the question of what we want people to say is such a powerful concept and really good personal development advice.
The truth is, whatever it is we want others to say about us, we are actually in a position right now to start living the kind of life that will make that happen. Imagining our "perfect funeral" gives us the power of that vantage point, enabling us to re-evaluate our priorities and to see more clearly the changes we may want to make. And no matter how far you feel you are from the life you want to be living or from the person that you want to be, it is never too late to make changes.
So what do I want people to say about me at my funeral? What character would I like people to have seen in me? What contributions or achievements do I want people to remember me by? What difference would I like to have made in the lives of other people?
These are the questions I am sitting here with today, and this is why I couldn't finish that other article. I feel as if I have a responsibility to myself and to those that I love to answer these questions so that if the time should come again, perhaps at another funeral, where I wonder what kind of person I am, I can feel confident that I am the person I want to be.
Basically, I know it all comes down to this, something my father said to me a very long time ago: