The dead are living proof that what we do in life matters gravely. And I am grateful for their inspiration each and every time I read one of their stories.
I’m not an obituary reader by any means. I’ve missed plenty a final fanfare because somebody departed without letting me know, and those that did know informed me only with a post-service questioning of my absence.
But the dearly departeds’ stories, their obituaries, their eulogies, I’ll call them their write of passage, make for some seriously thought-provoking reading. Every time I read one of their stories it begs the question: are you living the obituary you’d want to read about yourself?
You are – living your obituary. But is it what you’d want said about you?
Many years ago I came upon a eulogy that filled an entire page of the local paper. I didn’t initially realize I was reading a posthumous passage. But when I was finished every hair stood erect on the back of my neck inviting me to wonder what would be said about me in passing.
I suppose in part that may also depend on whomever was chosen to pen my passage. For their perspective of me is what will emerge from their emotional pen. But I’ve got to provide some foundation for them to begin with. Right?
Something simple, I mused, like, integrity, she stood in it always; man of her word, without question. She loved to talk, but more so, she walked her walk. And last but not least, faith, the one true constant in her life.
Those are some of the things I would surely like to be remembered for, and that full-page eulogy sits there in the back of my mind always reminding me to live the words I would want spoken of me post-departure.
Recently, writers celebrated the anniversary of the death of columnist Ernie Pyle. Locally, there was media coverage of the sudden passing of Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon, NPR radio voice Carl Kasell, former First Lady, Barbara Bush, and a beautifully moving tribute written by columnist Cynthia Stead about a Margery Scully. Each of these individuals surely lived lives that afforded great commentary, obituary and eulogy.
And once again, as if the Powers That Be were running a system check, those passing events had me revisiting whether I am living the eulogy I would like to read about myself.
I like to think that I am, but it doesn’t hurt every now and then to take a moment to take stock. Someday you, too, shall pass. There’s no do over. There’s no defense. There is simply someone else writing your final passage. What have you left them with to create from?
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that a person should deviate from who they are so that a eulogy or obituary can sing praises of them – as was the case in the comedy film “The Last Word”. I merely mean to attempt to provoke your thoughts about how you’re living your life and whether it’s in sync with what you’d want said about you.
Before You Go . . .
Perhaps we should all take a prompt from “The Last Word” and write our write of passage for fun, as an inspirational exercise. Say everything you would want the world to know you stood for in life. Then look back at it and your life and ask yourself: am I living those words? And if not, what can you do to begin to live in what you believe in so that you can leave that behind when you go?