Eulogies… How will you be remembered?

Written by Dan Moran. Posted in Senior Living

Published on October 05, 2011 with No Comments

Dan Moran

Every day on almost every part of the planet, friends and family gather to say their final “goodbyes” to a loved one who has passed away. Whether a formal eulogy is presented by clergy, family or a friend, most funeral services include a eulogy as part of the ritual. 

Simply put, a eulogy may contain a condensed history of the decedent’s life. Details about family, friends, interests, achievements and a person’s work are standard fare in most eulogies.  Sometimes songs or poems are performed or read aloud, or something from a person’s religious faith is coupled with the person’s innate goodness during their time on earth are expressed with great emotion at a funeral service.

What is almost never heard is what a beautiful car he drove, or what an incredible mansion she lived in, or “Fred was a mean, nasty guy but boy did he have nice toys!”

I remember when I was a child going to Catholic school.  One of my nun/teachers, Sister Everista, told the class to go home and do something that sounded real creepy before we were to go to sleep that night. 

She said we should lay real still, hold a rosary in our hands, close our eyes, and pretend that we were lying in a casket.  We were to imagine our family and friends gathering around us and we were to listen to what they might say about us.

Wow!  Creepy for an 11- or 12-year-old kid and it has stuck with me through the years.  Did you ever wonder what people will say about you once you are gone?  I believe that the good Sister’s point was for us to do a personal check up from the neck up each night to see where we can improve ourselves with the thought to correct our failures and make our apologies as soon as we were able and before it would be too late.

Another thing that one of the Sisters’ of St. Francis told the class, and me, was to always say I love you to those you care about whenever you part because we never know if those would be our last words to that person. 

Her point was that most of life’s day-to-day minutia means so little when the last breath has been taken. There are so many ways to say I love you.  Be creative, but be consistently aware that the loves that we are privileged to share in our lifetimes are the greatest gifts we may both give and receive.

Perhaps taking stock of where you are in your life, right at this very moment, might be a good thing to do. Who are you being nice to?  Mean to?  Who have you helped lately with no expectation of personal gain?  Who have you rejected or demeaned or shown rudeness to because things weren’t going just how you wanted in your own life?  Sometimes the hurts we cause seem to be small, but what if the hurt you caused was the last interaction you had with that person?

What does this have to do with our eulogy? 

Each of these seemingly little things add up and make us the person that we are. Oh, I realize that we all have a certain way that we see ourselves, and “good reasons” for what we say and do …  at least good reasons as we rationalize our behavior. 

Think back to the last time you saw “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, or “A Christmas Carol” when the script took us back with Scrooge to the time of Christmas of the future. When Scrooge stood as a ghost and heard the things that were being said about him at his funeral, and his defensive posture in the scene until the evidence became so overwhelming to him that maybe, just maybe, his view of himself was amazingly different than how others saw him in life. 

 A wise person once told me that it doesn’t matter if something is true or not. It is  perception that becomes their truth.  So, how are you being perceived?  The good news is we are human and we are alive. 

Just like in the movies, as long as we have a breath, we can change.  We can make things right.  If there are things that we have done or said that we regret, as long as we have a breath in us we can strive to become better people and right those wrongs. 

 It is easy to say, and a cop-out, that we are products of our genetic make-up.  To that, I reply, some parts of us may be a result of chromosomal connections, but mostly we are who we are, we do what we do, and we say what we say because of the choices we make to be, to do and to say.

We also have the ability to choose to correct the hurts we have caused and to make up for the bad judgments we have made.  All that is necessary is to ask ourselves the simple question that was posed by my grade school teacher so many years ago:  “If I died today, would I be happy with what people are saying about me?” 

More importantly, would you be happy with the eulogy that would be presented at your funeral?  After all, is it not true that you are the author of your eulogy by the way you live your life? 

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