Weaving a Worthy Life
Recently, a former coworker and friend of Tony & mine was killed in a tragic accident. It was the kind of accident that was likely based on a split-second decision and that any of us could have made- but with a consequence of unforeseen magnitude and calamity. Our friend was a man not in the prime of his life but that even more magical period- the fullness of his life- nearing retirement after a very successful career, grown children flourishing, and grandchildren bringing that special joy into the life of a grandparent, truly reaping all the good things he had sown over the years.
Attending the memorial service, the room was packed to overflowing with people wanting to pay their respects to a man who made a positive impact on so many and who’s legacy was his kindness, humor, faith, and humanity. I only worked for him for a short period and hadn’t remained in close touch, so others can speak far more eloquently about his impact, but the service also reminded me of the importance of funeral gatherings themselves- they are not only to mourn and remember those who have died but serve an additional significant function, for we will all be in their place eventually.
Being reminded of our own mortality has a way of throwing all the moments of one’s life- from the banal to the extraordinary into relief. As we drove home, Tony asked me, “What do you want your funeral to be like?” and it is such a profound question. Staring out the window on a grey and windswept day, pondering the shape and substance of your own funeral cuts to the core of what you are doing with your life. What will be said of you? Who will attend? What will people do as a way to remember you- light candles, tell funny stories of your capers, sing songs, quote poems, dance with abandon? Will anyone be there at all?
Will the people you hold most dear feel that they got a “fair shake”- are they getting the memories you’d want them to have? Because that’s what matters- not whatever else might be left, but have you left them with a treasure trove of memories. It is comforting to me to imagine my loved ones so overloaded with good, fond, funny, warm, colorful memories that they stagger under the weight of them, as if they had just won the lottery and it had been delivered in small bills. Enough so that when they looked at what was loaded onto their backs and clutched in their hands- they could say to themselves, “It is enough. It will sustain me.” I know in the grip of fresh grief and loss, there is a part of those who are grieving that doesn’t want to do that calculation, but it’s real all the same- and each of us would do well to reflect up on it.
A death like our friend’s, which happened when it “shouldn’t” also reminds you not to wait. Have you been thinking of spending more time with family or of pursuing that dream that you have always had- whether a trip or learning to knit or reconnecting with an old friend. We have all heard the question, “What would you do if you could not fail?” but perhaps the better question is, “What will you do, knowing that someday you WILL fail?” One day, your chest will fail to rise and your life will be measured and cut. The length of our life is unknown to us, but the pattern that you draw upon that cloth is up to you. Will it be a tapestry of color and depth that loved ones can take comfort in or will it leave them wanting more?
As heartbreaking as our friend’s death is, through his actions and deeds, he left his family and community with a gift of great beauty and comfort-that is his legacy. So, as I ask myself this question, I’d encourage you to do the same- Are the warp and weft of your life weaving something worthy of those who will be left to shelter within and care for it?
Posted on November 3, 2013, in Big Ideas and tagged life; death; legacy; cloth; tapestry; loss; friendship; love. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.