Sunday, July 12, 2015

What That Funeral Taught Me

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.

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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.

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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?

SUAR

35 comments:

  1. Well written post! I try really hard to LIVE, but it sure is hard not to get caught up in things sometimes. I'm trying to go more things like facing fears and being more vulnerable, when I should be. Als is a terrible disease. I once had a client with als and I went home and cried every day. Never take life for granted.

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  2. I guess nothing reminds us more than someone we know dying that life is merely a temporary state of existence. Your own mantra "Shut up and run" exemplifies perfectly what we all need to remember: Stop talking about living and truly get busy living:-)

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  3. This is a wonderful, peaceful, awesome post. Thank you.

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  4. Really beautiful post. All of those things you want to be doing and are doing are perfect for you. I almost died when I was 19, and I know what would have been said a lot was "she had so much potential" or "she was troubled, but really could have turned it around". Now, I think they'd say things about my compassion, my spirit, and obviously my good looks ;) haaaa

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    1. How interesting to think back on you at 19 - and what would have been said about you vs. now. Just amazing.

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  5. Passionate. I want to be remembered as someone who gave all. Nothing half assed.

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    1. That is the perfect word: passionate. That sums it up completely...I love it.

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  6. Beth, thank you for gracing Andy's memorial with your presence, and for bringing Sam and Emma.

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    1. Diana - really nice to see you, Patrick and Don. I loved what Patrick had to say. So heartfelt and authentic.

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  7. Thank you for sharing. I am finding more and more that life is less about me and more about others (including the pets). What are we doing to make the lives of others better?

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    1. Yes, I think that is the exact question we should be asking of ourselves each day.

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  8. Loved your words! I think it should be "Shut up and Live!"

    I've been to too many funerals lately. At my father's funeral I was touched by the people in his past that contacted us to thank us for all the help he had given them. We were completely unaware and obviously he acted compassionately because that is who he was.

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    1. What a wonderful remembrance of your father - to hear about how he affected people. When it boils down to it, that is what it is all about, right?

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  9. A great post, Beth! I would add to your list (of my own): try to spend more time with long-lost friends! :) Hope we can get together one day soon. I think Tara is coming to town in August, so keep it on the back burner.

    Sorry about your neighbor. I've lost a couple loved ones recently too.

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  10. This is awesome. Thanks for the thoughtful arse kicking list. I too will try to adhere to your ideas. You always write such meaningful and "real" stuff.

    Thank you

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  11. A beautiful reminder, Beth. Life is so precious. I try to never take it for granted.

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  12. We too attended a funeral a couple of weeks ago and lost a cousin who was only a year older than us. I definitely learned that life is too short and hopefully the footprint you leave behind is a good one.

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  13. Terrific post, Beth. Thanks for the excellent reminders.

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  14. Beth, I have read your blog for years and I don't think I have ever commented...I am guess I am a blog stalker! Anyhow, my mom died in December, 3 days after Christmas on my sons 8th Birthday, she also fought a shitty battle with ALS. The thing that stuck out to me at one of her 2 memorials was the amount of people she touched, and had an impact on. People drove from states away who were NOT family just to be there and say goodbye...she was a dependable friend and one of those people who EVERYONE probably considered her to be their best friend. Ugh, life is short and you definitely need to live each day to the fullest. When she was diagnosed less than 1 years ago I signed up for and did IM Chattanooga in her honor....

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    1. I am so sorry to hear about your mom. But, how amazing how wide her impact was. And, congrats on your IM!

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  15. The one word I'd want to describe me? That's hard. AUTHENTIC. That seems right.
    Great post today.

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  16. Beautiful post. My wife (age 45) passed away last month from a brain aneurysm. Although it was completely unexpected, she lived her life by "Run hard, don't hardly run". She applied that motto to her entire life. The lesson we learned is to follow her model because you really never know when your time will come. To add a little context, she had just finished her 26th half marathon and very active to an OCR team so fitness was not a factor.

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    1. I am really sorry about your wife. And I LOVE the mantra "run hard, don't hardly run." She sounds like a cool lady.

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  17. I've buried both my parents and one of my brothers (all before I turned 50) so my funeral experience is a little more than I would have chosen. My brother died at age 31 - he was a hemophiliac who got infected with HIV from tainted blood products back in the 80s. He was my HERO. He lived in pain his entire life and never complained. His wit was off the charts. The first post I ever wrote about him (in 2008) is still my most frequented post with more comments than any other. I think the thing that means the most to me is when my friends tell me, "I wish my kids had known Rod." More than 20 years after his passing, he's still remembered as a friend and all around amazing person who overcame everything life handed him. I want to lived like that and be remembered like that.

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    1. Rod sounds like an amazing person through and through. You were lucky to have him, even if it was for a much shorter amount of time than you wanted. Thank you for sharing.

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  18. My Gram died in February. She was 100. With it until the day she had a stroke. She was amazing to me and I never in all my life doubted she loved me. She taught me to say "I love you." I want the people I love to know by my actions and my words how much I love them. And I want to live to be 100 just like her - speaking my mind and making sense! ♡ Thank you for this post.

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  19. I love this post. I would want people to describe me as... "loving." I try to show love to important people in my life as much as possible, but there is always room for improvement.
    The last funeral I attended was my grandmother's. This isn't happy lesson, but it struck me... she collected knick knacks and miniatures. After she died, they were all essentially worthless. It got to me because all of these things... these items... that she had so much love for meant nothing after she was gone. The family picked through and kept pieces to remember her by, but the rest was sold at garage sales or thrown out. Heartbreaking.
    I have a lot of room to grow and live. I waste a ton of time, and would like to change that. Life isn't about possessions, or money, or jobs... it's about those we love.

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  20. This post really puts things in perspective. You probalby have no idea how many people you impact in the blogosphere - but I imagine it's significant. Thanks for all you do.

    You just kick started me with my big, hairy goal. I'm going to start a fundraiser for my parish priest's favorite charity. With the donations, he will be able to run the Boston marathon. This is going to be so worthwhile.

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    1. That is so cool. What a great big, fat, hairy goal. Keep me posted!

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  24. That always happens when you are at the funeral. The thoughts about the death and points of living. I was lucky to order my narrative essay on the similar topic from this service. And I have no regrets about it!

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