I wrote my own obituary once as an assignment for school and it was an exercise in futility. It was supposed to show me what I really wanted to do with my life and what really mattered to me. The problem, as you’ve probably already guessed, was that it was a construct, and I knew it the entire time. Therefore, it came out sounding like I was this perfect person who had done everything short of climbing Everest. Even things I never wanted to do made their way into it (for example, climbing Kilimanjaro). How was I really going to do what they wanted me to do and capture exactly what was important to me on the page?
The term “bucket list” became famous a few years back as a way to quickly categorize those things you wanted to do before you died, which to me is a bit of a morbid concept. Not even because it mentions death in its premise, but because it puts a ticking clock on everything you want to eventually get done. I read a book with a similar premise, where a woman finds this list of 40 things and she tries to do every single one of them as homage to the girl who wrote it, who died before completing it. I loved that book because instead of focusing on death, it focused on life, on living for living’s sake.
So, back to my obituary. I’ve done a few things I’m very happy about and that make the cut. Things like having two wonderful children, getting married to the love of my life, and publishing a novel. But what else from the things I’ve done to this point in my life is worthy to being included therein? Not much, and that honestly scared me. It woke me up, indeed.
So how do I get from where I am currently to where I want to be? He was a model citizen who braked for pedestrians and rescued treed cats in his spare time. That’s nice to embrace altruism but how does that fit with who I am fundamentally? I support causes that get me emotionally invested, personal causes and issues. So, rescuing treed cats, not so much. But supporting Down syndrome research and programs, definitely. That’s what I want.
And as I thought more along those lines my eyes got wide. That’s what I had been missing. Where was the individual, personal investment? That’s what I needed to connect with. When all was said and done, did I want to be known for random acts of kindness or for an ongoing sense of commitment to causes? When my life was over, did I want to be remembered for the things I did, or for the people I affected in a positive way? It’s like two different ways of looking at the same coin, but decidedly different views that affect everything else.
He was a stalwart man, and could often be found lounging on the couch with a biscuit. Now, I like biscuits as much as the next person, and I do admit to a fondness for my couch, but that’s not what I want in my obituary. What was I doing on that couch? I was spending time with my kids, watching a program, or relaxing after a long day, spending time with my wife. Because, you see, it is those times that matter in the grand scheme of a life well lived. Who loved you, and who did you love? What will they remember most about you? Not the biscuits or even the act of being stalwart. They will remember the laughs and tears, the things that made me… me.
And after this moment in time. Well, that’s the great division, isn’t it? No one can see into the future, let alone predict what will happen, but if everything to this point has been seen through the lens of love, commitment, decisions based on fundamentally sound principles, and the like, I see myself continuing that. It doesn’t matter what I do from here on out as long as I keep in mind those basics.
He was a family man who could often be found sharing a laugh with his loved ones while retelling stories he had told forth times before, but that were still appreciated until the day he died.
And that’s enough for me.