We have all experienced the death and ensuing sadness of losing loved ones in our lives. Close family members, friends, colleagues and even celebrities we admire.
I have recently taken time to reflect on some family members and colleagues lost over the years, as recent as a couple of months. One thing we all cannot dispute is the hurt, feeling of loss and a sense of reflection that comes with funerals.
All views held are shoved back when a funeral befalls us. The programmes are put together and speeches prepared. Our culture, nature and mystical view of death has transformed funerals into neutralising events.
Regardless of one’s nature or history, it is a time most dig deep to find something positive to say about the deceased as they bid farewell. Even a criminal will be remembered for his good heart, a mean man for his generosity and whatever else we can think of.
Does death suppress truth?
Death with its sting offers lessons for all of us, a basis to reflect on our own state. If there is any positive that death brings, this is it. If the deceased’s life was one clearly off the track, it becomes imperative for those that remain to draw lessons.
So many people have died. Those we know, friends and family we cherish and love, celebrities we follow religiously. Recently we have seen notable figures succumbing to this inescapable phenomenon. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Levy Mwanawasa, FTJ Chiluba, Bingu Wa Mutharika, Princess Nakatindi. The list is long. Even sports personalities have collapsed and died including a young Zambian lad after a game of soccer in Kabwe. Then we have cancer ravaged Eunice of Chingola and Robiana Muteka of Livingstone.
All have faced death in different ways. Ailments, destructive lifestyle choices or a mere inevitable appointment. And for all of them, so much is said by so many because we find ourselves caught in the overall moment of sadness and loss.
This does not take away the lessons that may be picked from their lives. Every death and every funeral must leave us asking what we will do with the remainder of our lives. What will be said about us when we are gone and what lesson will be drawn from our lives?
After all the speeches of “he was a good man…she was a woman with a big heart”, the truth remains. It cannot be buried with us. An impact of our life is left, whether negative or otherwise.
What eulogy are you writing for yourself?
It seems like a weird position to take. However, it is a strong truth. That speech and the sentiments at your funeral must be close to what the truth is. Fine, you will not be the one to give the speech but you can write the speech so we do not endure another perfunctory “appropriately worded” message at a funeral.
How can I do that? How are we doing that?
In everything we do, there is an opportunity as we touch a life. Our motivation as we saunter through life must not be to enjoy a flowery speech in church or at the grave side. It should be a fruit borne out of respect for others, a genuine interest in other people and a desire to seek good in all we do, being the best humans we can be.
At home, how are we relating with our family members? Spouses, children, siblings or in-laws? Do we conduct ourselves in a manner that radiates our love for them and appreciation of what they represent in our lives? Or perhaps it will be a relief when we are gone? Sounds mean but a possibility.
Still at home, how do we treat our maids, houseboys or garden boys? Are we more human than them such that they are just tools to achieve and do all we want, forgetting that they are merely in a job to provide for their families?
We go to the office. Are we gossips, whiners, moaners, instigators of corridor talk and rumbling? Are we at the core of negativity that resists change or finds all faults one can see to point wrong out? Are we the type whose departure or absence is a relief for all?
In our neighbourhood, are we the good neighbours that can wave with a smile? Open our door with warmth when visited? The easy neighbour that out of ten will be top for a visit? Or are we the cold, withdrawn, snobbish and petty one that the kids dread too? What secret sentiments will all those around you have when you breathe your last?
Take a walk through your daily life and assess yourself. How are you impacting lives and relating with others? At the neighbourhood shop? Filling station? Barbershop or saloon? In traffic? Wherever your shadow has fallen, what has the impact been?
The final analysis
We see that at all times and in all facets of our lives, we are in a community. Everything we are is for the common good. When we are fortunate and blessed to serve in whatever station in life, we must keep this thought active. Whether it is in the workplace, at home, in our neighbourhood, political or business leadership, we are impacting a life. The choice of whether we make that moment count and positive is entirely ours.
So many times we waste this chance until we are called to the grave, not having made use of such opportunities. Then we draw people to offer the empty meaningless speeches as they search their minds for something appropriate to say.
Our lives are all about us. To cap it all, we even look down on others on account of status, prejudice, social tastes or whatever basis we opt for.
This needs to change. We all need to make it easier for those we leave behind to remember us for good. I would like to believe that everyone we encounter in our lives visits us for a reason. They step into your life and at that point, an opportunity presents itself to be at your best, have a positive impact on one’s life and help them on as they take steps forward in their life. If every one of us could take that approach, what a world we would have.
An ideal so far fetched?
But on account of our selfishness, self-centredness, myopia, petty jealousy, covetousness, greed, prejudice and all we can fathom, we are far from this ideal.
The ugliness of the world today is a representation of our hearts. Even while we lie in the casket on our journey into the earth’s belly, the rot follows us.
It follows us because some of those bidding farewell do so to a mean person. A heartless boss, a lazy indisciplined negative employee. An insensitive husband or nagging wife. A cold unfriendly neighbour, an uncaring friend. A corrupt or failed leader. A fraudulent preacher. An untameable child. A social wreck with a life cut short by alcohol abuse, drugs, prostitution, perversion and paralysing lifestyles.
All the above are a reflection of choices we would have made through life. The eulogy we would have written as we were accorded a chance to live on this earth.
It can be that or it can be a life celebrated. It can be a congregation of people that bid farewell to a life well lived. A good heart opened to many and all. A flower among weeds. A source of help, exemplifying the hope and good that remains alive in the midst of the rot. A life of a person whose impact has been a positive influence on those known to him or her.
We see what we have in the world today because we do not see our lives as God does. Hence a trail of destruction, pain, bad memories and relief accompany our demise with the empty speeches at our burial.
If God is given the slightest of chances in our lives, allowed to influence how we live, we would accompany that hearse and give that speech with a heart of gratitude, thankful for a life that has offered its best and a life whose memory does not present a struggle or challenge when called upon to give a eulogy.
Can we get to the end of our lives like Paul having fought a good fight, ready to check out?
Will your end be one wasted by drugs, alcohol or the pursuit of your success at the expense of your soul, family and conscience? Will it be a regrettable end to immense potential? A “should have, would have”? Will it be a celebration as a disastrous leader is buried?
Or will you now live your life right, with God as guide and making every opportunity count as one living for God?
As you write your eulogy and final speech, make it a point to live for God. Strive to present an opportunity for others to see this God. Be it family, friends or the next generation. Even beyond the final words, the last testament or our last action, present a life that brings glory to God and pleases your fellow man.
Let all those that escort you on your final earthly journey to your grave be able to say “surely this was a child of God”. Just as the centurion did after Jesus finished his mission and gasped his last.
What will they say at your funeral?