Last week I attended the funeral of the father of one of my good friends. Nothing puts life in perspective quite like a funeral. Witnesses to a life well lived filled the church and listened as his four children shared a few of their many memories.
We heard about the great care he provided his patients (he was a doctor), the love he had for his wife, children, and grandchildren, and the many ways in which he gave back to the community he’d called home for much of his life.
We heard about his military service, trips around the world, and the way he made people laugh.
Aside from a reference to the colorful ties he wore, we didn’t hear any mention of material things.
Think for a minute about the funerals you’ve attended. I’m pretty sure we never hear eulogies reference the deceased’s possessions. Or rarely anyway. I mean, I guess it could happen but we generally don’t hear stories about the shot glass they bought in Demopolis (yes, I drove through that town last week) or the collection of decorative pillows on their couch.
We hear stories about trips and experiences, the contributions they made, the things they said, or the way they made you feel.
Why is it important to commemorate the lives of the family and friends that we’ve lost? They all taught us something. They all meant something to us.
Among the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that time certainly isn’t slowing down; in fact, it’s moving faster. In this hectic world, we must be even more intentional about carving out some time every now and then to offer gratitude and remember their contributions to our lives.
But it’s not just about reflecting on the past.
I wrote a few weeks ago about contemplating your legacy. I asked you to think about how you want to be remembered. When your children, grandchildren, or friends reflect on your life, what do you want them to think about? What stories will they tell about you in the future?
How do you commemorate your life as you’re living it now?
Although spending on “things” is fairly limited in our family, one tradition we started a number of years ago is to buy a Christmas tree ornament whenever we take a trip. It is a small, inexpensive way to remember our vacations together, and one of our favorite things to do is to reminisce about the trip and share stories from it when we decorate the tree each year. Just a few of the many that we have are in the photo at the top of this post.
I must also admit that I’m guilty of keeping ticket stubs from the many sporting events and concerts I’ve attended in my life. I keep them in a shoe box in my closet, and they don’t take up a ton of space. Every now and then I’ll dig through them and remember the many wonderful experiences over the last few decades. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, being someone that hates clutter), everything is moving to e-tickets now, so the ticket stubs are getting harder and harder to come by. It’s a little bittersweet since we’re starting to take our son to more events now that he’s older. I captured a few of the ones I found in the photo below.
Commemorate your life in your own way, but just make sure you do it. Commemorate the loved ones and friends that have gone before you in your own way, but just make sure you do it.
While visiting with my friend last week, he shared the following story about a conversation he and his brother had with their father just hours before he passed.
Their father, who didn’t even drink, told them that he was going to need five bottles of bourbon. “For what?”, they asked. He explained that he was going to a party. He told them he’d never been to this kind of party before, and there were going to be a lot of people there.
He told the nurse that the party started at midnight. He passed away at 12:20 AM.
Like the rest of us reading this, I don’t know exactly what happens when it’s our time, but I take great comfort in knowing there’s a party to look forward to. We’ll arrive at that party at different times, but let’s not forget to make the most of this party while we’re here.
Live this life to the fullest. Experience it. Except for a few rare occasions, you’re not going to be remembered for the material possessions you bought. Others will remember the times you spent with them, and the memories made from living. None of the best memories of my loved ones involve anything they owned. Instead, I remember things like going fishing, making homemade ice cream in the backyard, and spending holidays together.
Make your own memories, but don’t forget to pause and remember the indelible marks left on us by those that have gone to that next party before us.