Drawing Life Lessons from Funerals: How Planning for the End Can Make the Journey More Fulfilling

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By Dail Meikle

 

Have you ever attended a funeral? Well, of course you have.

If you’re like me, weddings and funerals are way, way down on your “What do I want to do this weekend?” list. However, most of the time, I don’t really have a choice. When I do go to a funeral, though, I almost always come away with a greater appreciation for the person who died, and I am inspired to improve my life in some way.

For example, I recently attended a funeral for a friend I’ve known for probably 40 years. His death was very unexpected and sudden, and he was a really good man. So although there was the “celebration of life” aspect to the gathering, it was still very sad.

I got to know this person better in the last three or four months of his life, seeing him at a weekly meeting we were both involved in, and I grew to appreciate his character even more than I had before. Still, I feel like I learned a lot more about him at his funeral than I already knew – and, to be frank, it made me miss him even more.

At the funeral, as with most funerals I’ve attended, one of my friend’s kids got up and shared stories of his life: What a great dad he was. How patient he was. What a great inspiration he was to those around him. He never raised his voice to anyone. Loved nature and the outdoors. On and on.

I’m sure it was all true, but it caused me to reflect on my own life and think, “What will they say about me when I go?” I think I have some strengths, but way more weaknesses. What would I want someone to share about me?

Usually, as I’m leaving a funeral, I’m resolving to do better in some area or another. This one was no exception, but then I got back to my life and it all went out the window. Maybe I should attend more funerals. Or is there a better way to set goals to improve?

Keeping with the theme of not just setting goals, but also learning from those recently passed who inspire us, here’s one way to incorporate the two: Write your own eulogy.

I know it sounds strange, but think about it: What would you want others to say about you? Make a list, either just of things you’d like to improve or, if you’ve recently been to a funeral, some of the best characteristics of the person who passed away. Write those ideas down, then put them in order of importance to you.

You may have listed some things that, while important, no one would mention when talking about you. For example, you may have put down that you’d like to lose some weight. Well, great, but I can’t see someone speaking at your funeral saying how great it was that you lost 15 pounds.

So, look again at your list. What are the big things that you’ll be remembered for? Maybe that you always put others first, or are always looking for opportunities to serve. It might be something much simpler, like the fact that you are always smiling. That’s something people notice and appreciate.

This isn’t all to feed your (or my) fear of someone not being able to think of anything positive at your funeral. If you’re really doing the things that you admire in others, think about how much fuller your life can be. Think of how much more you can be a positive influence on others, making their lives better.

This is just one example of being present in your own life, and one area where planning can make a big difference. Many of those we work with have taken this to the next level and have pre-planned their funerals, so that their loved ones will have one less thing to worry about when the time comes. If you’ve been thinking about this, let us help! Just give us a call, and we can set you on the right track.

Maybe you don’t have the same insecurities that I do. But I still think we all have things we can work on, and the idea here is to work on areas of our lives that help and improve others’ lives, too. Make the world a better place – or at least your neighborhood, family or church. Be the person you’d most regret losing.

 

To a long happy, healthy and influential life!

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