Two Very Different Memorial Services

transitions and taking act

In the last six weeks, I attended two memorial services. Both were for the 70-something brothers of friends. Both men had “complicated” pasts and died unexpectedly of heart-related problems. Both services were attended by about 45 people.

So many similarities, yet the services could not have been more different.

Charlie’s service, held in a local fire hall, was filled with love, laughter, and music. There were several speakers who spoke fondly about Charlie. Two of the speakers alluded to his past sidesteps, but only to highlight his years of victory over them. All the speakers spoke about Charlie’s kindness and love for others.

By comparison, though Bill’s memorial was on a beautiful farm in rural Lancaster County, the air was dripping with tension. It was attended mostly by family, although several of Bill’s family chose not to attend.

Growing up as the middle child of eleven children, Bill was the red-headed, charismatic, good-looking “star” athlete, the apple of his mother’s eye. But the not-so-quiet buzz at his memorial was that Bill had “a dark side.” There was one speaker. It was Bill’s nephew, Mike, who was also the attorney who spent time with Bill helping him sort out his legal affairs. He spoke for about ten minutes. It was clear that he had to stretch to find something to say with lines like, “Bill loved Jesus Christ. He didn’t always follow His teachings, but he loved Jesus Christ.”

When Mike finished, others were invited to speak. No one did. In fact, the negativity hanging in the air was palpable.

Never before have I attended a funeral or memorial where no one had anything good to say about the deceased. If the purpose is to honor the person and comfort the family, there was no honoring Bill that day. And comfort? As we ate lunch, comfort seemed to be in telling “Bill stories” that highlighted how awful he was.

It was jarring to my psyche. It also got me wondering…

What will people say at my memorial? Or yours?

What is one thing you hope you are known for? Do you want to be known for:

  • Values: like optimism, honesty, creativity, empathy, integrity, or kindness? Or,
  • Traits: like having healthy boundaries, being a leader, being a fun person to hang out with, being a good mentor? Or,
  • Is there something else, like funny stories, that you want people to remember about you?

I’m asking because we’re only a few months away from the New Year. Pretty soon all the distractions of the holidays will take up your thinking space. So now is a good time to figure out what you want to be known for. What is ONE THING?

Why is that relevant now? When you choose your ONE THING, then ask yourself: how can I do more of that in 2024?

For example, if you want to be known for being optimistic, is there something – like developing a daily habit of meditation or affirmations – that will help you be more optimistic?

Maybe you want to be remembered as a good mentor. Are you mentoring someone now? If you aren’t, how can you? Does your company, networking group, or church have a mentoring program? Are there any Big Sisters programs near you? Find out now how you can get involved.

Whatever one thing you choose, before you get holiday-sugar-brain, make a plan now, and a commitment to follow through on your plan in the New Year. Put all that in the back of your mind and let it work some magic (inspirations and ideas) over the next couple of months.

And then relax into the beauty that is fall.
With love and in victory,

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