I remember the first time I met with my lawyer and we talked about my Will. He said something that always stuck with me, “Your Will is the final message you leave the world.” I know what he meant. He had only good intentions. He was saying that who I decide to leave money, possessions and other material things to was my way of showing those I cared about what my thoughts and intentions truly were. That comment always haunted me.
I think about my funeral alot. I know it sounds morbid, but it’s quite the opposite actually. It’s liberating. It frees you. Knowing we are going to die one day is one of the greatest gifts of life. Steve Jobs said that in his amazing commencement address at Stanford. I must have watched it a few dozen times.
When you reach a certain age, maybe in your 50’s like me, death becomes a reality. I lost a sister in her 50’s. I have lost friends in their 50’s. My friends have lost loved ones at this stage in life too. Diseases. Accidents. Natural causes. Mostly, there is no warning.
And of course, old age comes knocking sooner than we all are prepared for. If disease or a tragic accident doesn’t get us, then eventually old age will. And that’s the guarentee we all sign on to when we are born. That we will all die. No escaping it. Just a matter of time. Just a matter of how.
And knowing this, and thinking of this everyday, gives you so many opportunities to live a richer, more passionate, fulfilled and stress-free life. I am often amazed that more people don’t think along these lines. Why sweat the small stuff when you know your time is limited? Why waste your days being angry when life is so precious? Why focus on the material when you know you can’t take that with you on the next journey beyond this life? Why not tell everyone you know you love them so there is no doubt about that when you do pass?
When you realize that death can come at any moment, you see things differently. You notice things like the trees, the sky, the snowflakes, the smiles, the laughs, the tears, the joy and the suffering so much more clearly. You also take longer pictures in your mind of the people, faces and places you go. You become so mindful of life. And rarely take things, moments or people for granted.
When you die, you can’t take your possessions with you and yet people seem so focused and obsessed with them. And no one will remember what car you drove, the size of your house or how much money you had in your wallet. But they WILL remember YOU. Your words, your smell, your touch, your loving, your kindness, your compassion and your sense of humor.
I think about my funeral often. Who will be there and what will they say. When I really came to this realization a few years ago with my embrace of Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation, I really started to change who I was and what was important to me. And how I would be remembered. And therefore, how I wanted to live. While never one to focus or obsess about the material, I absolutely was someone who was more inward focused, measured, cautious and non-trustworthy of others. Just my background that contributed to that narrative.
Today, I am so much more focused on living my life without regrets and with an absolute focus on living in each and every moment. I do whatever is in my heart and mind at that moment. My dreams and desires are my reality.
I know that at my funeral this is what I want to leave behind:
*I loved, laughed, danced and sang with passion, sincerity and honesty
*I told everyone that I cared about that I loved them (ad nauseam probably for my kids:)
*I helped everyone I could
*I did everything I dreamed of, and more
*I made time for the little things because I knew they were the big things
*I lived in every moment and truly enjoyed life
*I lived a truthful life
*I took risks and embraced my failures as gifts
*I consumed all of the knowledge I could
*I grew and changed as often as I could
*I tried to be present in every conversation with family, friends and complete strangers
*I saw life as a gift and I didn’t throw it away
Think about your own funeral. What will people say about you? Are you happy with that thought? Do you want to change that perception? Are there people you need to tell right now how you feel about them? Are there things you want to do that you always dreamed of? If so, DO THEM NOW!!!
I made that change in my life. I asked myself those questions. I looked deep inside my own soul and because I didn’t like the answers I came up with, I set out to change how I lived my life.
None of us know when that time will come. But whether it comes tomorrow or in 50 more years, you know it’s coming. That is a guarantee.
So, knowing all of this, do something to make your funeral reflect the person you always wanted to be! And in doing so, you will live with no regrets.