Last Saturday, I attended a funeral of an elderly relative where the reverend announced that she prefers funerals over weddings because “people are more real.”
Ironically the weekend before, I was at a wedding. Years go by now where I attend neither one. It made me stop, and reflect. There was more authenticity at this funeral than the wedding, but difficult to compare apples to oranges in terms of preference when one is generally happy for good reason while the other sad for good reason.
A funeral has the gift of hindsight that exposes a life filled with precious relationships of those now deeply missing you while a wedding can only hold the promise of such a relationship.
Will you be missed?
It was one of the ‘tell-tale’ signs in my dating days to signal a relationship was over. I no longer felt that sense of “missing someone” during their absence. We had either grown apart or were too incompatible, and it was time to move on.
After hearing many heartfelt tributes in voices strained with emotion, and at times overflowing tears unable to be contained, I knew that my aunt was loved dearly, and will be missed by many, especially by her husband, and first love of over 50 years.
My uncle described to me how she seemed to know it was her time after battling a rare form of stomach cancer the past few months. I’d visited her in hospital on Christmas day, and though in pain, was still in good spirits with a smile.
In her final days, she no longer needed pain medication, was at home, and had passed peacefully holding her beloved’s hand.
“How do you want to be remembered at your funeral?” the reverend asked. I’d heard a similar question many times throughout the world of coaching: “What is the legacy you want to leave?”
The wedding had been for the President of the company my husband currently works for. It was beautiful, fun, lovely. The pastor at the ceremony said “we must pray for this couple’s happiness as they need all the help they can get. Marriages are hard.”
We all laughed uncomfortably knowing the statistics, and our own experiences with long lasting happy marriages, yet still holding onto the hope for the love we witnessed that day.
I’d met this elderly aunt (my mom’s cousin) for the first time 14 years ago. She’d arrived to help bring my newborn twin girls to their early doctor’s appointments with my nearly 2 year old son.
I didn’t like to ask for help, but I was so exhausted from sheer lack of sleep let alone getting myself, and 3 little human beings to an appointment on time. My mom suggested I reach out to my aunt – she was retired, lived nearby, and loved seeing children play, and smile.
She’d later arrive with the most delicious chiffon cakes that my kids would devour. I’d send Xmas cards, and visit occasionally. Turns out her cakes were famous among many, not just my children!
What creates lasting connection? I barely knew this aunt, yet always felt a closeness from how she gave so selflessly when I was desperate. All you want is for her to be happy. There always seemed to be many friends, and family around her.
This part of us that’s real where we feel better as a result of having known someone. A funeral reveals that kind of success. It was described in a poem I’d collected in my teen journal not understanding what authenticity in our connections really meant until I began experiencing glimpses myself:
Everything else, your worldly possessions, education & career success, or reaching the top monetarily – what we work so hard to achieve holds a different value of “successful doing” that can’t compare to experiencing life through the relationships you create of “successful being”.
Getting things accomplished is important, but what’s more valuable is how you are being as that determines whether you will be missed at all. It reminds me of Apple founder, Steve Jobs in a previous blog where I noticed the backlash about his character after his passing. Yes he will be remembered for what he did, but it’s his character that lives at the real level, and remains with us.
We want to be remembered for who we are, which becomes the foundation for what we do. These need to align to be truly successful. We’ve all met people where “what you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.” No matter what you’ve accomplished, it gets diminished if who you are isn’t respected, and cherished.
I try to remember this when my kids walk into the room excited to tell me something, and I’m in the middle of working. Am I being present or annoyed?
I’m mindful of the last time I spent with a friend laughing, and crying while getting the finances & laundry done.
I realize that I had to endure a few false friendships to appreciate the beauty of what I value about someone’s character, and who I don’t want to be.
When did I last appreciate my husband for his hard work as the main provider financially for our family that allows me to do what I love so I can give the best of me, and leave the world a little better?
Am I earning the affection of my youngest nieces & nephews, and respect of my own children with our time spent together?
What am I giving? Who am I helping? How am I making a difference?
Who, and what will be missed about you at your funeral?
Being mindful in your daily life of how you want to be remembered will ensure that when your time arrives, you will be loved, and missed not only for what you did, but for who you are. I believe that’s real success worth striving for.