Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Being Remembered

Welcome to Wednesday.

Let’s talk about death. Let’s talk about our own mortalilty.

Not a pleasant topic for some, but I hope to talk about it in a way that will make it a more positive experience.

Many of us have regrets that we didn’t tell a loved one how we felt about them before they passed.

I talked about that in a recent blog post:

So, now that we’ve talked about telling our loved ones how we feel about them – telling them we love and appreciate them before they leave us, let’s talk about our own life and death.

Think of someone you love who has passed on. Could be a family member, friend or co-worker.

What do you remember about them?

Were they friendly?

Did they make you feel welcomed into their homes and lives?

Did they make you smile?

Did they leave you wondering how they felt about you?

Did they have a mean streak that made it difficult for you to mourn their passing?

All valid questions.

My brother Mark passed a few years ago. In fact, we’re approaching the anniversary of his transition – from shuffling of his mortal coil to stepping through the veil to his new home in the Spirit World.

For years prior to that memorable day, we siblings hadn’t exactly been close.

I can’t say that we had been fighting or anything like that, but we certainly could have been closer.

Each of us (my mother bore eight children) had gone off into our own corner of adulthood. Most of us worked, few of us communicated with each other.

Oh, sure, there was the occasional family Christmas party where we were all in one place at one time, and there were various groups getting together for Thanksgiving dinner, but that was about it.

We rarely made it a point to gather and just be with one another.

When Mark slipped into a coma in the intensive care unit, we, his siblings finally got it together. One of our own was down and we dropped everything that didn’t matter and held vigil with him.

Of course, there were lots of tears and prayers, and lots of laughter, too. In fact, I remember promising Mark that I would do all I could to make his passing a celebration and not a time of desperation and depression.

So far, I’ve been true to that promise.

When the time came for him to pass, the kind medical staff in ICU brought him out of his coma so we could explain to him what was happening. His best friend Shirley had the very difficult task of telling her dear chum that he truly was at the end of his mortal journey.

Then, in groups and in pairs and later one-by-one, we all said our goodbyes.

We left the hospital, and we left my brother in care of another of his friends.

They removed his respirator and feeding tube.

On the morning of December 31st, 2005, I awoke with a strange, peaceful feeling. I remember waking up almost shouting: “Hello!”

And with that, I knew he was gone.

Even now, I find it strange that I told him hello instead of goodbye.

At his funeral, during a sort of open mike time where we invited those not on the program to say a few words, one of Mark’s friends shared something incredible with us.

It’s something I’ll never forget. It was a wake up call to all of us as Mark’s siblings.

She told us that Mark had often talked about a rift between his brothers and sisters. He talked a lot about wanting to be able to bring us together. That was his wish, his hope and his dream.

He fretted often about us and wondered how he could finally rejoin us in some meaningful and lasting way.

In his illness and death, he did just that.

So, what do I remember about my brother in his passing?

He healed wounds.

He calmed troubled hearts.

He reunited us.

He brought his brothers and sisters back to a point where we now understand, more than ever before, what really matters in life.

We matter.

To each other.

We know now what it’s like to lose one of our own. We certainly sailed through uncharted territory and survived intact, though one of our own is now mortally absent (though we often feel his spirit with us, especially in trying times).

We know now that a quick call to say “hello!” is important, even if it means forgoing lunch or being late to a meeting.

We know how very important it is to say “I love you” at the end of every phone call. When we see each other in person, we rush to embrace each other, and we don’t leave without another hug.

We know.

Recently, I asked some friends (tweets from Twitter) what they want to be remembered for when their time comes to leave this frail mortal life.

I’m posting their responses at the end of today’s challenge – so let’s get to the challenge first:

Think about your own funeral. Think about your friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers filing by your family.

What will they say? How will they feel?

What will they tell your surviving family members they remember most about you?

Will they say you were friendly?

Will they say you made them feel welcomed into your home and life?

Did you make them smile?

Did you make them feel valued as a person, as an individual and as a fellow human being?

Will they say you loved life?

Will they say you took time for them, despite their challenging schedules and meetings and such? Will they say that when you were there, you were really there for them?

If your answer is yes, then I’d say you’ve passed today’s challenge.

But if your answer is no to any of the above questions, what can you do today – right now – to change their perception of you?

Can you be a little kinder today?

Can you be a little gentler?

Can you call someone just to see how they’re doing?

Can you write an email or a note to tell them how much they mean to you?

When you’re exasperated with someone you love, can you still smile and hug them and tell them they mean the world to you and you don’t know what you’d do without them?

Can you?

I think you can.

Live today as if you knew with absolute certainty that you would be stepping through the veil tomorrow.

Live today so that your actions and your words uplift and inspire others, especially those closest to you.

Live today so that those closest to you will never, ever wonder if you really loved them or if they were just words tumbling out of your mouth out of duty or obligation.

Live today.

Love today.

Don’t be afraid to tell them.

Thank you so much for reading today, and for taking today’s challenge.

I very much appreciate you.

I know you’ve stumbled my blog. I know you’ve retweeted my posts. I know that you’ve helped spread the word with dig and other tools.

I appreciate that so much. One by one, you and I can really help transform the world into a more loving place, into a Heaven on Earth.

As promised, here are the comments I got from my Twitter friends about what they most want to be remembered for when they pass on.

The question I asked was:

When you die, what do you want people to remember about you?

pattih05k i want to be remembered as a mother who loved to sing and act and loved sunrises & sunsets.

jantallent seriously, that I was half the mom my Mom is and 1/10th as perfect a Grandma as MINE was

triplej2676 i want to be remembered as kind, honest and funny. i'd like to be remembered as someone who made people laugh.

TamiDePalma When she was with you she was really WITH you. She lived unconditional love.

teejerx: as someone gentle and kind, a good brother and friend, and someone who was there to listen and help.

Deb_Andersen I want to be remembered as Caring and Giving of myself :) I try to think of others when considering my actions!

northpolemama that I was always true to my heart and i never let life pass me by

isequeira I want ppl to remember that I was fun to hang around and genuniely cared for them (& my kids to remember I spent a lot on life insurance)

PRsarahevans that I ran unabashadly free through this one life, without fear; believed in abundance; expected the unexpected; lived

How would you answer? Feel free to comment!

And what I want people to say about me when I go?

“He had kind eyes and a gentle manner. He served others.”
Remember, Service is the Action Form of Love!



brookeaprilrain said...

I've never lost anyone that was extremely close to me. I've lost people that I know or have known, but as sad as it seemed I was never really Sad...Maybe it's because I know where they are headed, and it's amazing! I once heard from a prophet that when you die, it's just like walking from one room to the next. I don't have any doubt that that happens. We may taste the sting of death, but the time frame is short compared to the eternity that we will be faced with. I'm just really thankful I have the gospel/Savior to hold me up. I couldn't do it without him.

Tracey said...

Now that's just strange, James. Kind eyes. Yes. You.

Lately, I've thought a lot about my own funeral. Interesting that you have a whole blog post on it, don't you think?

James H said...

Strange? No, not really. Coincidence? I don't believe in those. Connection? I think so.