He called me first. I was on the phone with my husband, so I wasn’t able to answer. Then I received a text. Having received a phone call and text within seconds of each other, I knew the message was urgent and required a prompt and personal response on my part. My husband suggested I hang up and return the call immediately.
“Hi. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mom this week. We all know it’s going to happen at some point, but it’s still never easy,” I said.
“Thank you very much,” he responded. “Actually, that’s why I called. I need to write up something about my mom for the back of the bulletin for her funeral, and I was wondering if you’d be able to do that for me.”
“Sure,” I said, without giving it much thought. After all, just six days prior a writing colleague suggested that I should consider writing peoples’ life stories. It should’ve been no surprise that I was presented with an opportunity so soon after the suggestion was made to me.
He told me he’d spoken with his siblings, that they’d gathered some information about their mom and her life story, and could I possibly put all of this together and write it in a nice format for the back of the bulletin?
Undoubtedly, YES I can.
Who would say no to such an honor?
Basically, I was being asked to write this woman’s obituary.
I took the son’s notes, spent time putting them into paragraphs and emailed the final draft of the obituary to him around 10:00 p.m. that night.
The next morning bright and early, he shared the draft with his siblings. They removed some information and added some information. He called and asked if I could rewrite and refine the obituary with the changes in mind.
Undoubtedly, YES I can.
I made the changes and emailed the obituary back to him within 30 minutes. He needed to get it to the pastor that morning.
She passed away on Monday. I sent the final draft of the obituary for the funeral bulletin at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday. The funeral was Thursday. Today it’s Friday.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. – James 4:14
All of this has me thinking…
What did I learn from writing this woman’s obituary?
It is with great honor and respect of this woman’s life and death, that I share just a few of my learnings. Perhaps one or all will guide your path, your life, the light you shine during your short time on earth.
- In the end, your life will be reduced to a few short paragraphs in an obituary. What would you like those paragraphs to say? You are not victim to what happens in your life, nor are you victim to what shows up in your obituary. You have a chance to change the trajectory of your life NOW.
- Whether you believe it or not, whether you believe you’re making a difference or not, you WILL be a part of someone’s obituary. Your name is important. Your contribution and service to others is important. Your presence and dedication to others is important. Whose obituary will you be on, and how are you contributing to their life today?
- Isn’t it beautiful to have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, extended relatives and friends? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a powerful influence in your grandchildren and great-grandchildrens’ lives? How will they remember you once you are gone? What legacy will you leave for future generations? How about extended relatives and friends? What relationships are you fostering now that will actually hold weight on your death bed? Who’s the friend you can’t imagine life without? Who’s the cousin or aunt or great uncle for whom you always had a special affection?
- Your mistakes, your sins, your faults, your terrible mishaps, and the worst moments of your life will rarely show up on your obituary. People will remember the BEST of you. What do you want that BEST to look like?
- LOVE is perhaps the one and only thing you want to show up most on your obituary. Love deeply, to the best of your ability.
- Work hard, but definitely not too hard. Work with your heart. Work with the end in mind. Do you want to be remembered for earning $200,000.00 a year, or do you want to be remembered for being a great leader? Do you want to be remembered for never missing a single day of work, or do you want to be remembered for being committed and dedicated to whatever you did? Do you want to be remembered for being “over” hundreds of employees, or do you want to be remembered for being a faithful mentor and guide? Do you want to be remembered for all the awards you won, or do you want to be remembered as a servant heart? The list could go on and on. Be wise about your work, for the days are short in this one wild and crazy life.
- What are you doing to stay busy in your down time? Watching TV? Watching your iPhone? Vacuuming? Dusting? Or would you rather be remembered for something cool and interesting like knitting, skydiving, woodworking, writing, traveling to all the continents, pottery, jewelry making, or something super cool like that? Find and develop your interests now and as you’re able. Who knows? Maybe someday your grandchild will find your box of antique rulers and bottle caps, and will think it’s the coolest collection in the world!
- If your entire life had to be summarized in just ONE sentence, what would you want it to say? What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be remembered? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for future generations? What changes can you make that will begin to shape and mold the ONE sentence that describes your life? Hint: It’s not necessarily about WHAT you did, it’s more about WHO you were. “She was always such a graceful lady.” “He was such a funny guy.” “She was such a kind and generous soul.” “He was committed to his family.” “She was faithful to the end.” “He never gave up on his dreams.” “She sure went through a lot, but she was one tough cookie.”
- What do you believe at the core of who you are? Believe me, your core beliefs will show up on your obituary. What do you believe, and how is that being expressed in your life? It’s worth pondering today and every day.
- What would be devastating and terribly unfortunate if it never showed up in your obituary? What are your dreams, your plans for your life? Is there some goal, some life aspiration, some way of living and being that you need to commit to so that someday when your obituary is written, it will actually show up and be remembered? What is your one true calling? Are you short-changing yourself? Are you foregoing your dreams for daily pursuits that don’t have any long-lasting legacy power? Are you selling your soul for things that won’t really matter at the end of life? If you were to die today, what would be missing from your obituary tomorrow? Move towards the thing that’s missing.
That’s it. That’s all I learned from writing someone’s obituary.
Be blessed. Be a blessing. Live life as if it counts. Live today as if it’s your last.
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