I went to a funeral on Friday. It was to honor a neighbor who died of ALS. He had a quick and unrelenting deterioration over the past year. I was reminded this could be any of us. That health, the ability to move our bodies how we wish, quality of life and the number of days we have left are not guaranteed.
This was not a neighbor I knew exceptionally well, but someone who I had for years watched take his yellow Lab on walks on the golf course. In passing, he always asked how my kids were doing. How our life was. One time he offered to pay my son $200 if he could find the hearing aid he had lost on the path. Sam never found it, but not for lack of trying. This is man I wish I would have taken the time to know better. How sad that I didn't realize this until after his passing.
I find memorial serves and funerals to be so many things. Poignant. Heart breaking. Eye opening. Through tears I notice what a person’s life has meant to others.
For this man, those who loved him viewed him as a helper. He was generous with his time even if he did not get anything in return. He gave of himself in situations when most people turned a blind eye. No one mentioned how much money he had, how many hours a day he worked, how fast he ran a mile or what car he drove. Rather his legacy was about the relationships he had nurtured over the years and how he made the world a slightly better place.
I know this funeral was not about me (not this time), but I could not help but wonder what people would say about me when I died. I realized that from this day forward I had a hand in what that might be. Sure they could mention I was a runner, a mom, a wife. They could say I was nice and funny and driven. But, what do I want them to say the most?
That I lived. Really lived.
You see, there is living and there is LIVING. Just by definition, to be alive means to breathe, to have a beating heart. But, to truly be ALIVE means much more than that. Your heart does not just beat, it leads the way. To me, LIVING means:
- Laughing. It connects us. It makes the unbearable a bit more bearable. Laughing at yourself is good too.
- Having a pet because they teach us stuff humans can’t.
- Taking risks. Jumping out of a plane is a good start.
- Saying I love you even if it’s awkward.
- Reaching out to strangers. Helping when no one else does.
- Having compassion. Putting yourself in the shoes of others.
- Seeing the best in people even when they make it difficult.
- Learning from mistakes.
- Saying you’re sorry. Making it more important to find peace than to be right.
- Doing things that frighten you. For example, picking a race goal that scares the shit out of you.
- Stopping your bitching. No one likes a whiner. If you don’t like it, work to change it (i.e., shit or get off the pot).
- Not holding grudges. Life’s too short.
- Spending time in nature. Or just getting the hell outside every day, somewhere somehow.
- Being vulnerable and sharing that with others.
- Traveling. Expanding your mind by understanding how other’s live differently.
- Taking care of your body. Whatever that means for you.
- Not gossiping. What’s the point?
- Facing fears.
- Figuring out the special gifts you have and sharing them.
- Worrying only about what is in your control and not giving energy to what’s not.
Yeah, yeah, that’s a pretty tall order, but I’m going to try.
What’s one word you want people to describe you as?
Have you attended a funeral lately? What did you learn?
Any other ways you think you could truly LIVE?