Have you ever wondered what others will say about you when you’re dead? How will they remember you? While death may be an awkward or uncomfortable topic of conversation, it’s worthy of some consideration in relation to how you live your life. I’ve heard people say “death is a part of living” and “we preach our own eulogy while we’re alive.” The more I mature in life, the more I come to realize the deeper meaning of these statements. Death is something we all will experience; it’s unavoidable. And how we live determines what will be the truth that family, friends and coworkers will think about us, even if they don’t say it, when we’re gone.
In a book I read recently, the author’s seventh-grade class was given the unique assignment of writing their own obituaries. While this may seem a bit young to even begin to think about death, the subject so piqued the author’s interest that it shaped his worldview and has had a direct influence over his life and his life’s work. Many years later, he crafted a story based on this unique class assignment. Through an unusual set of circumstances, the main character, a highly successful businessman, is mistakenly reported as deceased, and his death makes headline news. His curiosity leads him to read Facebook postings to amuse himself and bolster his ultra-inflated ego. It backfires: the posts reveal that “friends” and co-workers were glad he was dead! They all said cruel and painfully true things about his mistreatment of them and his unscrupulous and cutthroat business deals. Everyone, except the ex-wife he had deserted while she was ill with cancer, hated him. She relentlessly defends him, recognizing that he had lost his way some years before and had clearly been on a path of self-destruction. Shocked and dazed over their opinions of him, he begins a journey of what he hopes will be reconciliation.
As I reflected on the story, it helped to reinforce the concept of living life on purpose and redefining what living life on purpose should be like. It has to be more than merely focusing on accomplishments. It has to begin with being deliberate in our actions and interactions with family, friends, and those we come in contact with on a daily basis. It means asking ourselves some hard questions: “What do I want my legacy to look like? Am I a likeable person? Am I friendly? Am I a good friend? Am I a good listener, or is it all about me? Am I on the right path? Am I loyal to my goals and dreams?”
There is a joke about a man who died, and during his funeral, people gave glowing testimonies about what a wonderful person he was, and the pastor who eulogized him gave him sainthood. Finally unable to take it any longer, his wife whispers to their son, “Go up there and see if that’s your father in that casket!” The good question is, what did the others really think about him?
Life’s journey is meant to enrich our character no matter what we go through. So wherever you find yourself in life, it’s not too late to begin living life on purpose.