I have had the opportunity to hear many words of remembrance. They are usually given at funerals. They can be touching and heartwarming, humorous and sarcastic. They can be words that give an impression of who their loved one was, and still is.
At church on Saturday, our priest preached on the raising of Lazarus reading from John’s gospel. He introduced his sermon by talking about people who had obituaries written mistakenly about them even though they have not died. One such person our priest mentioned was Alfred Nobel (1833 - 1896). He was a Swedish born chemist and engineer who invented dynamite. In 1888, his brother, Ludvig, died, and the obituary mistakenly identified the deceased as Alfred. In the obituary he was referred to as the “merchant of death” because of his invention. He was taken aback by reading this! As he reflected on this, he realized that he didn’t want to be know in perpetuity as this. So, he bequeathed most of his estate to form the Nobel Prize in 1895. Alfred died within the year.
Can you imagine reading your own, premature obituary? First of all, it would shock the hell out of us! Who wants to read that we have died….and we didn’t! Might make us a little paranoid. But, think about what words and phrases might be used in our obituary to describe us as we have been living our life? Would it surprise us or shock us too? Would they be words that we would not have used at all to describe our lives?
I watched a TedTalk by David Brooks once that asked the question, are we living for our resume or our eulogy? Think about that. Both the resume and the eulogy can be words on a page, and they can be words that describe us. But they can be vastly different. This TedTalk described the first person as someone who is the worldly ambitious person. They want to build and create things. The second person not only wants to build and do good, but they want to be good.
Might we be someone who can integrate them both? To have resume values that are eulogy values and vice versa. To value doing good and being good in our world. The question is, what are those values that you and I live out of? Are we even aware of our own values? I wrote about beliefs in a previous blog posting. Might it be time for us to look at what values we hold near and dear? I value compassion. Am I living a life of compassion towards others? Towards myself? And, just how am I embodying this value? If I were to ask my family, friends, and co-workers if they saw me as a compassionate person, what would their answers be? Might I be surprised like Alfred Nobel?
In the end, like Alfred Nobel, we should consider what legacy we want to leave behind? I read this quote recently: “Legacy is not leaving something FOR people. It’s leaving something IN people.” What do we want to leave IN people that is a reminder to them of the good that we do and are? What words of remembrance would we like spoken at our funeral?