Friday, July 25, 2014

Lessons learned from a funeral or two...

What a blogger I am! More months of silence and leave it to a funeral to return me to my blogsphere. Sigh.

In the last 3 months, I’ve attended two funerals. Where I am, they call these “celebrations of life” and indeed they are because people come up to microphones and talk about how amazing these lives where when they had breath. Both were men. I did not know either one well at all. Despite that confession, I felt compelled to come and pay my respects.

RP was his late 80s and RT in his late 40s. The former’s passing was somewhat understood and expected as he was in his twilight years but the latter’s passing came as a shock. RT had been paralyzed a couple of months ago after accidentally hurting himself jumping into his swimming pool at home. Both leave behind loved ones whose lives are forever changed.

As I sat and listened to eulogies and watched photo slideshows for both these men, I learned three things from them and their lives.

The first is that life is a gift and meant to be lived to the fullest, to the best of our abilities. Both men were active in their circles at work and at home. Neither chose to be an island. It is easy to be an island when the world seems like such a scary place where people do not have the same values as you, or seem not to have any values at all. That does not mean we should retreat to protect ourselves and pooh pooh at everything that is not like us. If anything, I learned that we need to arm ourselves with what we know is true and good and go out there and shed some light on this dark and often crazy world. 

The second lesson I learned or rather had reaffirmed for me is that I need to make memories with my family. Although both men were well appreciated at work, I saw many photos of family times. I saw RT’s girls hugging him tightly on family vacations. I wistfully wished my girl would do the same to me. I saw RP’s family surrounding him during birthday celebrations  and watched his fashion sense evolve with the years.:-)

I spend a lot of energy and time at work. Partly because I excel at my work. Partly because I get a lot of affirmation at my work.  I pour out 110% at work….if you do the math, that does not leave much at all for home.  And so, I acknowledge that, I err in placing work ahead of family, ahead of my own children far too often because honestly, at the end of the day, on my death bed, will my work circle be there? Who was it who said, “Nobody ever wished on his deathbed that he spent more time at work.”? But, then again, things are almost always easier said than done, aren’t they?

My third lesson from RP and RT is to live your best life now and to do it authentically. I don’t mean any new age-y reference, nor do I mean to spend all your money buying all the toys you want now.  From what I saw and heard, both men lived their lives consistently and humbly, putting the greatest value on human relationships among each other and one’s relationship with God, the Creator. Neither threw money around like it was water. Neither shied away from difficult situations. Neither hid their beliefs in a loving God. Both believed that eternity mattered and because of that belief, both were courageous in how they stood firm for universal values of kindness and truth and dignity and how they extended kindness, truth and dignity to all in their circles. I could tell that, from the group of grown men around me sobbing, at RT’s celebration of life.

We never know when our stories are meant to end or how they will end. While we have breath, perhaps we should evaluate how we would like our stories to be told when our journey is done. What will be told someday in the future, depends on what we do now in the present. Do you need to rethink some aspects of your life today? I do.