JUST A THOUGHT
by Joyce Leggett Brock
A few weeks ago, I posed a question to my friends on Facebook. I asked them, basically, this: When you die, if people could only remember one thing about you, what would you want it to be?
I really enjoyed the responses and I thought that most of them were appropriate to the people who provided them. People wanted to be remembered for being kind, for having a servant’s heart, for being steadfast in their faith and witness, for being authentic, for being funny, etc. These responses came from people whom I regard highly, and they live lives that closely coincide with their answers.
I think that most people would respond in a similar fashion. If you observe human behavior in general, though, you might expect different responses.
No one said that they wanted people to remember that they were pretty. No one wanted to be remembered by their wealth. No one wanted to be remembered for their popularity, for their power or for their style. No one said that they wanted people to remember that they were the smartest kid in school or that they never made mistakes in grammar. No one wanted people to remember their cars, their cell phones, their big screen televisions, or their surround sound systems. No one wanted to be remembered for their collection of music or BluRay discs. No one wanted to be remembered for their talent in any area – sports, arts, mechanics, etc. No one wanted others to remember that they shopped in only high end boutiques or that they rejected big box retailers. No one wanted to be remembered by their political party affiliation or by how many degrees they had earned.
Why is it, then, that these are the things people seem to exaggerate in everyday life? We’ve all witnessed the behavior that I’m referring to – people boasting proudly about what they have, what they’ve done, etc. We’ve all seen people show off their cellphones or brag about how advanced they were. We’ve heard people make big statements about their own intelligence. We’ve seen people spend countless hours and dollars on the appearance of their vehicles. We’ve listened to high-toned comparisons of the colleges people have attended. We’ve seen how much emphasis people place on their clothing.
I really think that most people place emphasis on these things because they’re attempting to influence people to like them. When thinking about the present, we think people need to be impressed by us in order to like us. The truth is, too, that many of the things we think are impressive are downright silly.
Somehow, though, when we think about how people will remember us, as opposed to how they see us presently, we get it right. We realize that they will remember us fondly because we were kind, giving, charming, funny, caring, and dedicated to our religious beliefs. Why then, the disconnect in how we try to persuade people to like us while we’re living?
By the time we’ve reached adulthood, most of us have attended more funerals than we would prefer. We’ve probably been to both kinds of funerals, too. (Don’t misunderstand me, no funeral is a good thing – it’s a time when a family is grieving and mourning the loss of someone they loved.) Still, funerals tend to fall into one of two major groups – the ones where everyone has something to say and the ones where few have anything to say.
People are reluctant to say anything bad about a person after they die, which means that if you live a less than desirable life, mouths fall silent at your funeral. At the funeral of kind, loving people, though, people have a lot to say. They share stories of all of that person’s kindnesses, they talk about the endearing qualities that made that person who they were. Hugs and laughs are interspersed into the tears. People will often say, “He/she lived a good life.” I’ve yet to hear anyone say at a funeral, “He/she always had the latest cellphone before anyone else upgraded.”
My reporter friend Therese, who coincidentally used to work at this paper, brought up this general thought earlier this week. She was talking about people who inspire her as she writes stories about them after their deaths. How do they inspire her after they’ve died? She’s inspired by the comments that friends and loved ones make about them during interviews.
If you’re uncomfortable thinking about funerals and the conversations held there, think about that aspect. If you died, tragically or honorably, and inspired a news story, how might that story sound? As a reporter made rounds between your closest family members, your significant other, your co-workers, and members of your community, what might they say about you? What would you like for them to say about you?
I know what I’d like friends to say about me. I’d like them to say that I was kind, that I appreciated my parents and family, that I was dedicated to and adored my husband, that I helped others when I could, that I cared about other people. I wouldn’t mind if they joked about me being quiet or having unfinished projects. It doesn’t bother me that people will probably laugh about how clumsy I am, or how I run late for everything. I wouldn’t care if people remembered that I was overweight or didn’t dress very well. Above everything else, though, I want to be remembered for one thing – and that thing is love.
We have direct influence on how we’re remembered and on what will be said at our funerals, in remembered conversations about us, or even how people will describe us to future generations of our family. That influence won’t come from telling people what you would like people to say, though. That influence isn’t something you can generate in one day. Each action we take today, and everyday, will influence those memories.
As the new year begins, people will make a lot of resolutions. According to www.usa.gov, some of the most popular resolutions center on: drinking less alcohol, eating healthier, becoming more educated, making career improvements, getting into better shape or losing weight, managing debt, managing stress, quitting smoking, living greener lifestyles, saving money and taking trips.
Oddly enough, none of those popular resolutions have anything to do with how people say they want to be remembered. Only one popular resolution is listed on the website along these lines – volunteer to help others.
We have a little time to start thinking about our resolutions for this year. Maybe if we begin to ponder now, we’ll think of something really good.
I just might resolve to attempt to live each day in the realization that what I do today will be how I am remembered tomorrow. This should make it much easier to be kind and helpful to others.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-6681 with questions, comments or story ideas.