I have a unique vantage point on life insomuch that I work in hospice. If you do not know what hospice is, it is the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual care an organization gives to an individual and their families in the last six months of his/her life. Other than the day to day interaction with my phenomenal patients and families, the favorite part of my job is what people say about their loved ones after they pass.
This is not just in my work, but with my family, friends and in the community. I love when people tell me, “I wish you knew her”, “He was the best person I know”, “She was amazing”. My heart fills up with pride (almost always for a person I never knew) and my next question is ALWAYS…”What made him/her so special?”. When I ask that question, there is never a shortage of answers and the person I am speaking with goes on and on about the exact reason his/her loved one was one in a million:
She loved to throw parties
He took great care of his family
She was the life of the party
He gave the BEST hugs
The lists goes on and on…After one of these life-affirming interactions with one of my co-workers, I wonder what people will say about me when I am gone. Will my loved ones know that I would have done anything for them? Will they know that my number one passion after my family, friends, and vocation, was travel? Will they tell people I LOVE to laugh? Will they tell people that I had the heart of an advocate? What will people say?
I realized at that point that I needed to write my eulogy and live my life backwards. As a recovered control freak, I now understand that if I would like for people to talk about me in a certain manner after I am gone, I had better start living that way right now. Why do people wait till the end and hope they got it right? What would it look like for all of us to start at the end, living how we hoped our life would be seen in its entirety?
How empowered we would be if we knew that we could start at the end and know that we created the legacy we intended for ourselves? We are not victims of what people think of us based on what we are trying to work towards, we are constantly evolving into who we want to be.
Ever since this conversation with one of my co-workers, I have started to craft what I would like my loved ones to say about me once I am no longer here and this is what I have come up with:
When the question is “What was Cheryl like?,” my loved ones would say:
“I wish you knew her. She was passionate about life, people she loved and people that didn’t have a voice in their community. She loved to laugh. She believed I was special and because she believed I was special, I believed it too. She lived in the moment and didn’t worry about tomorrow because she believed it was already taken care of. She would have done anything for the people she loved and they knew that. She went through great pains to make sure that people who met her never felt alone or less than unique. Other than the people in her life, her deep love was travel and made a commitment to visit one new place every year. I wish you knew her, she was amazing!”
The bottom line is that we have to start where we hope to end. We want to have a vision for who we think we are going to end up being and start there. Do not be afraid of the fact that life ends, but embrace that if we start there we might be able to influence the ending. You are already amazing! Don’t wait till someone says it after you have gone, that is true today, tomorrow and always!
As an exercise in growth, try writing what you want people to say after you are gone. You are extremely brave, have your loved ones read it and see what they think!!