Attending a family funeral can cause a sudden moment of reflection. What would people say about me at my funeral is the question raised in a number of self-help or self-improvement texts, and I found myself giving just that question some thought.
I was sat at the wake where I heard myself described as the “intelligent” one in the family, a title I personally don’t believe I deserve. Thinking about it can I understand the narrative which relatives had developed, in that intelligence is measured by qualifications so more qualifications means more intelligence. This simple narrative excludes the effort expended as well as the decision making processes including personal sacrifice in getting the qualifications I have. It excludes the multitude of wrong turns and failed endeavors which have occurred along the way. It also excludes a fair share of luck which has put me in the right place at the right time. This being said I must acknowledge that at my future funeral I won’t be around to argue and therefore it is this perception, the perception of others as to me, which will be presented as fact. But do I really want to be known for being the one with the most qualifications? Does this make for a successful life?
So what are the stories of my life which people will draw on in describing me following my parting? My career history might be something which comes to mind, in my adventure to work in the Middle East. Most of my family have spent their life within a relatively small geographic area however I have spent years in each of the north west of England, the south west and also in the Middle East. As such I may be seen as someone who explored opportunities wherever they arose.
I suspect my qualifications, as mentioned earlier, will come up albeit this isn’t something I believe is particularly important.
My work ethic may be something that comes up, as I am forever working on something be it writing in this blog, preparing for an exam, working on things for my day job or on something else. Some of these tasks are personal and some are work related, some are about personal growth and development, however I suspect the perception will classify them all simply as “work”.
I would hope that a focus on my family would be raised in trying to ensure the best for both my kids and also for my wife. Part of work ethic relates to trying to ensure I can best provide for them however it is interesting in that the work ethic may reduce the actual amount of time spent with them. This is something I want to address in the year through a family holiday, something we haven’t actually done in many years now.
As I reflect I can’t help but consider that it is stories and narratives which will be recounted when I am gone. These stories may not necessarily sum up that which I do on a day to day or week to week basis but are the things which come easily to mind, the events which are memorable. So it may not be the items which I list above which are raised, but instead stories of when I went for a family car and returned with a two seater instead or of when I turned up at the airport to fly out having picked up my son’s passport rather than my own and the ensuing stress.
So I find myself wondering, is the funeral activity a worthwhile activity? Am not sure it is. Maybe a better question to consider is what are the stories of my life, have I enough of them to fill my funeral with funny anecdotes and stories, and how do I go about creating new stories in the time I have left. I intend to focus more in creating new stories in the days ahead.