We know that one day — hopefully not too soon — it will be our turn to have people gather at a service for us. We might be thinking, “I hope more than a handful of people will show up….”
Whether or not you have but a couple of family members or maybe standing room only might have something to do with what you’ve always done, or what you do between now and then. Not that how many people show up at any of your services, or at your gravesite, are an indication of how much you were loved, any more than if only one person or none show up will indicate that you were not at all loved.
It is wonderful to see how much our former president was loved. Whether or not he was that loved when he was serving as president of our United States may be another matter altogether, but then we all go through stages during which we are more loved, or less loved, or maybe not loved at all. Then again, how we’re perceived changes with the times, the situations, the state of the nation, and so forth.
It is heartening to know how former President Bush was seen in the eyes of those who worked under him or side by side with him or even were just in his presence. Some of the glowing words could bring tears to our eyes. Would that we could be seen with even a fraction of that love and devotion when it is our turn. Yet so very few of us can even hope to live such a life as did the late great (according to his biographers and eulogists) George Herbert Walker Bush.
And many of us never could, even if we wanted to. While there are both great men (and women) and great lives, there are also the many, many unsung men and women who live more or less quiet lives, those who do
things that the general population will never know about — nor does it matter if they know or not. They are busy living their everyday lives doing their jobs the best way they can. They may be raising children; they may be shining examples to their friends and neighbors; they may be secretly supporting causes with their finances, their time and energy, and with every fiber of their being; they may even be changing the course of history. No one will be singing their praises or waving flags in front of their house, or making speeches and mentioning their name. They might never even know when such unsung heroes are ill.
And then they die. As we all must. And what do they leave behind? Well, the “they” that we’re talking about is all of us. Have we lived the life we intended to? Have we lived a life that made things better for others? For the world? Will anyone remember us and think of us with love? If we could imagine being at our own wake, funeral, or memorial service, what would we want to hear people say about us as we quietly stand invisibly in the back? Would we be surprised? Would we be shocked? Would we be disappointed? Would we be happy? Would we be wishing we had a chance for just one more year to make things different, to make things better than we left them?
Some people haven’t even prepared their wills, leaving their loved ones with many questions, problems, and financial difficulties.
Imagine how some widow will be feeling that her husband didn’t even provide for her in case of his death. She will not be hearing all those glowing words about her departed husband; all she’ll be thinking about is why he didn’t love her enough to have a life insurance policy to take care of the mortgage and the bills.
But he didn’t think that his number would be up so soon. He figured he had plenty of time and so he kept putting it off. Just as so many people keep putting off the things that they intended to do because they just don’t get around to it. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise to them when they stand in the back of the room, silent and invisible — if such could ever be the case — and listen to their own eulogy.
Unlike the eulogies to come for George H.W. Bush and the many words which were already spoken about him, many of the things we may hear spoken about us (as we imagine ourselves as the guest of honor at our
own funeral or service), will be short and possibly devoid of any great accomplishments on the “large stage,” and maybe — depending on who decides to say those few glowing words about us, the deceased — filled with fluff (as in, “What can we say about Uncle Joe?”) rather than filled with substance.
But if we all live our life the way we intend to, doing the best we can and loving the best we can and leaving everyone better off in some way for our having passed by along our earthly journey, we won’t have to worry or wonder about what words will be spoken to remind others of who we were. They’ll know by the life we lived while we were still alive, and will have warm and happy memories of the person they knew.
Famous? Known world-wide? Important? Part of history? Maybe none of that will describe any of us when we’re laid to rest, but is that really necessary? Wouldn’t we all want to be remembered by those who genuinely loved us and who we loved? If even one thing we did stays in their hearts and in their minds and brings a smile to their faces when they think of us, isn’t that a sign that our life was not lived in vain?
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.